Monday, July 28, 2014

Clarity of Vision Sets the Compass Needle to True North

This month on A View From The Q Bill Troy has been talking a lot about focus as ASQ goes through their strategic planning process. Do you have the right focus? Do you have a clear vision?

Given all of the rapid changes and increasing distractions organizations face today, individuals must be able to focus on those things that offer the greatest advantage to the organization. The clearer the priorities, the easier it will be for people to focus their energies on what really counts.

You can’t do everything. So you have to focus. Since you can’t do everything and if you ever could, your customers wouldn't believe you anyhow, then you need to focus on something that you do well, that people want.

The job of management is to steer the focus of their organization towards those few vital priorities that will keep or bring the organization into alignment with the demands of its customers. Once these are identified, employees can then pinpoint the group, division, factory, department, or project gaps that must be closed to stay aligned with the strategic direction of your organization.

Leadership must articulate a vision and goals describing what they believe want to accomplish. They must provide a clear charge to all layers of management and process improvement team members to work towards this vision, making sure that everyone understands the vision. Leaders work with others to set specific goals and a manageable scope for each action. Focus on defining the attributes needed for success and empower the team to develop efficient and effective approaches to accomplish them.

Casting the vision is not enough.  Starting out is always the most difficult part, but do not let the vision fall flat.  Revisit, reinvent, and restrategize until the flow becomes natural. Create and align company goals with the vision, and align individual and team goals with company goals.

Let your employees know how they will benefit from embracing the vision. Explain and reinforce the financial rewards when the goals of the vision have been achieved, such as bonuses, recognition, and career development. Share the vision frequently through staff meetings, outings, newsletters, emails, posters and employee campaigns. Develop visuals, such as tables, charts and photos, which highlight milestone accomplishments of the vision.

Traditional planning methodologies focus on steering an organization in the direction desired by top management. Often referred to as management by objective (MBO) since top management establish the objectives, targets, evaluate whether employees meet these targets. Unfortunately, as we know, you can’t achieve the desired results by just dictating individual targets.

In Lean Thinking “Hoshin Kanri” is the process to select those annual objectives that will give the organization the greatest possible advantage. The word hoshin is formed from two Chinese characters: ho stands for “method,” shin means “shiny metal showing direction.” Kanri stands for “planning.” Together, hoshin kanri is used to communicate a “methodology for setting strategic direction,” in other words, a management “compass.”

The Hoshin kanri process identifies and concentrates resources on the vital few stretch achievements that support the vision. It separates those performance issues that require dramatic improvement from the many incremental improvements that can achieved at the local level. All the changes that the leadership believes to be incremental are skimmed out of the strategic plan and addressed through quality in daily work. The remaining category of contribution – the vital few breakthrough achievements – becomes the core of the hoshin kanri process.

At the heart of hoshin kanri is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. Promoted by w. Edwards Deming, this management cycle (sometimes called the PDCA cycle) is an iterative process. A closed loop system, it emphasizes four repetitive steps:

First, start with an idea and create a PLAN to test it.
Then, DO adhere to the plan, and take corrective action when necessary.
Next, analyze and STUDY discrepancies to identify the root causes of obstacles.
Finally, take appropriate ACTion. If the outcome matches expectations, then standardize the process to maintain the gains. If the results were disappointing, then modify the process to eliminate the root cause of remaining problems. In either case, repeat the process starting again with PLAN.

While these steps appear in a linear sequence, when implemented the phases are best thought of as concurrent processes that can continually be improved.

Hoshin kanri is the system for setting management’s compass toward True North. It is a tool to align people, activities, and performance metrics with strategic priorities. It can be used to communicate direction, coordinate activity, and monitor progress. It enables members of the organization to work together in the most creative way to define and achieve the strategic intent.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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  1. Hoshin Kanri is a great method to make sure "vision" isn't just meaningless words plastered in various locations.