How many Lean programs start with an objective of reducing costs? How many of them are named “Lean” when it’s spelled “L.A.M.E“?
Management still thinks that because they’ve decided something ought to be done (such as lowering costs or increasing quality, reducing delays), that will be done without them being personally involved?
Hoshin Kanri is the Lean way of deploying objectives top-down through the hierarchy.
Yet, these should not be seen as traditional in the types of objectives (aka “SMART“), or in the method in which this is done.
How to do hoshin kanri?
First, the method is not really that of a “top-down” approach as I said above. It starts in a top-down manner, but only as a way for top to give some direction down as to where people should look after for improvement. And then, each level down should investigate where there’s room for improvement that could contribute to the top objectives and ask for improvement down his own hierarchy in the refined sub-objectives. All this goes right to the shop floor (bottom level) where people then know precisely:
- in which direction do the improvement objectives need to be done
- and why they are necessary (more on this below)
Only when the top objectives have been declined down to the shop floor can bottom people start thinking to how the improvement will be done and lead their kaizen efforts in the proper direction.
Of course, it could happen that lower managers (and people) know better than upper management about what the next improvement should be or in what time frame it can be done reasonably. That’s the bottom-up part of hoshin kanri where bottom people negotiate with upper people on what ought to be done. This is constructive dialogue taking place. Not dictatorship.
What kind of objectives?
The next important point in hoshin kanri to be taken into account is that the top of the top objectives are not what people could expect out of “SMART” objectives. That level of company-wide objectives is called “True North“. Often times, that kind of direction doesn’t change very often and it more importantly needs to have an intrinsic property not advocated by SMART: it needs to be motivating. This is the why of the objectives that are so deeply sought after by employees. Simon Sinek in his famous TED performance explained that “people don’t buy what you do but why you do it“. Don’t expect your people to buy-in your objectives if you’ve not sold them why you want them.
Toyota doesn’t have a company objective. It has a vision. This is maybe more clearly expressed in their Company Vision:
Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.
Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile.
We will meet challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people, who believe there is always a better way.
That’s not “SMART”. But it’s engaging. Now, every department of the company can work toward this vision, by interpreting what it means with respect to its role inside the company, to its current performance and so on.
What about your company? Are your people carving stones or building a cathedral?