Applying Hoshin Kanri

Hoshin Kanri is a planning process used by many industries to help standardize and implement ongoing improvement. It is often used with other Lean manufacturing techniques to help identify improvement opportunities, plan out how they will be implemented, and finally, put them into place. By definition, Hoshin Kanri is a strategic planning process with built-in review, improvement and learning activities. The term literally means Direction or Policy management, with Hoshin being translated as either direction or policy, and Kanri meaning management.

Despite some initial appearances, Hoshin Kanri is typically not used just for short-term projects or goals. This is a methodology in which is implemented at a high level, and affects entire organizations. When done properly, Hoshin Kanri will help plan out the future of an organization months, and even years in advance.

The Benefits of Hoshin Kanri

There are many great benefits that facilities can enjoy when using this type of planning methodology. To start with, it helps to align everyone in the facility toward some common goals. This includes both management personal and the front line employees. This is done by keeping everyone accountable for all their commitments by using a variety of visual management and review techniques.

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Hoshin Kanri strives to get every employee pulling in the same direction at the same time. It achieves this by aligning the goals of the company (Strategy) with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed by all employees (Operations).

In many cases, these visual management and review techniques will not only ensure everyone is meeting commitments, but it will help to eliminate wasted time and effort. There are a number of different visual management and reporting options available, and they can all be used to keep people on task.

Another major benefit of this type of planning methodology is that it allows everyone to learn and improve throughout the processes. When there are problems, they are corrected by focusing on the root cause of the issue, rather than just the symptoms. This root cause corrective focus allows everyone to learn from any mistakes that are made, so everything will run more smoothly in the future.

Finally, the Hoshin Kanri process helps to standardize reporting during these projects. It encourages a standardized presentation format, which harnesses the power of visual reporting, and also helps to reduce the number of ad hoc reports that are generated. This helps to streamline projects, and avoids wasted time on unnecessary reporting. Since everyone is held accountable to their commitments throughout the process, reports which used to be standard can be phased out to save even more time.

The Seven Steps of Hoshin Kanri

A well run Hoshin Kanri process will consist of seven specific steps. These steps work together to ensure everything is completed in a timely manner, and that the end result achieves the objectives, which are set up in the first step. The seven steps are:

  • Setting Vision, Mission and Key Metrics – Identifying the vision, mission and key metrics of a new project is absolutely essential. If this step is not performed properly, the project can start off without a clear direction, and it will end up causing a lot more problems as work is completed.
  • Identify Breakthrough Objectives – With any project or process that is being worked on, there will be a few vital objectives that will have a major impact on the success of the entire project. Identifying these ‘breakthrough objectives’ is a great way to help maintain focus on the things which are truly important.
  • Set Annual Objectives – Setting long term goals and objectives is extremely important with Hoshin Kanri. Having these objectives allows teams to take on large projects that will have major impacts on the business. Depending on the specifics of the project, it is also sometimes necessary to have quarterly or semi-annual objectives set as well.
  • Deploy via Catchball – The catchball process gets its name from two people tossing a baseball back and forth. The idea is that when implementing a Hoshin Kanri process, it should be done by developing a consensus on how objectives are met between management and front line employees. The two groups can get together and discuss expectations and implementation strategies, so both can get on the same page. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and problems down the road.
  • Review Results Weekly, Monthly and Annually – Frequent reviews of results can have an excellent impact on the way things are done. By having regularly scheduled reviews, everyone knows that they have to stay on schedule with their responsibilities. It also gives everyone the opportunity to ask for help or make adjustments to the process where needed very quickly.
  • Problem Solving – No project ever goes smoothly, and it is known that there will be problems with any Hoshin Kanri process. In the regularly scheduled review sessions, problems can be identified, and solutions proposed. Solving these types of issues as soon as possible helps to avoid larger issues or delays in the future.
  • Reflect & Learn – Whether at the very end of a Hoshin Kanri project, or at any time throughout, it is good to reflect on the problems, successes, and overall experience by everyone involved. Learning about what went well, where problems occurred, and finding other improvement opportunities will help foster an environment of constant improvement throughout the facility.

Implementing Hoshin Kanri

Many facilities implement Hoshin Kanri as part of an overall move toward lean manufacturing. This is a great time to put these practices in place. If a facility is already running other lean strategies, however, Hoshin Kanri can be added in at any time. Ideally, facilities should find one or two primary implementers to help train others on how the process will work. Providing training to everyone involved, and taking the initial implementation slowly at first will help to ensure the first Hoshin Kanri process is a success.

Keep in mind, Hoshin Kanri concepts can actually be used to implement Hoshin Kanri itself. There is no need try to invent a way to start using these methodologies. By following the seven Hoshin Kanri steps, implementation will be simple, and successful.

While it may sound complicated at first, Hoshin Kanri will actually simplify many activities throughout the facility. It helps to bring management and employees together, so they can work toward common goals. It also helps by providing a clear roadmap of how things are done, and what to do when problems arise. Give Hoshin Kanri a try in your facility, and join the thousands of other companies that are enjoying the many benefits. If your looking for a training DVD on an introduction to LEAN, “The Errand Run” is a great DVD that will give your audience the main concepts for applying lean principles.

A great video from Gemba Academy on how to Apply Hoshin Kanri:

Additional Resources