Posted by: knightbird | January 26, 2011

Hoshin Kanri

I spoke to a colleague recently about my view of strategic planning, and I am afraid that during my time as a lean leader, this view has changed dramatically. In 2006, my board adopted a traditional 5 year strategy. At the time, I was proposing strategies, goals, objectives and timelines. I was also trying to engage the board on performance measures. We tackled numerous initiatives in that strategy. Then my board surprised me and stripped out the goals, objectives and timelines leaving me with just strategies. I felt a bit lost because my focus had been traditional in that goals, objectives and timelines were critical to my then existing worldview. My board actually did me a tremendous favor and separated my from the convention that is known as strategic planning. Dr. Tom Jackson then substituted the concept of Hoshin Kanri in place of traditional strategic planning.

Now I understand that strategies should be developed when the idea presents. WE (as an organizational team) should be addressing a problem by the identification of major defects that show up, and in a lean environment, those problems rapidly diminish in quantity and quality. Because leadership is no longer engaged full time in firefighting, we have a lot more time to communicate, think and reflect on a future where problems are eliminated before they have an opportunity to occur. We also have time to reach out into the future and develop solutions to becoming an outstanding purveyor of value for our customers Let me give you three examples.

When I was hired, I inherited a dental facility but no program. We had very little federal funding to provide dental services so we needed to develop a source to fund. We spent years trying to develop a traditional program before individual initiative settled in and we began to experiment. Two years ago, my Health Division Director responded to my request that we have a dentist travel to our Villages by locating and contracting with an itinerant dentist. I have written about our results in a prior post—we have one Village that is now cavity free, and a second Village is almost at the same point of cavity free. In a traditional non-profit, our strategic plan would have set out a pathway for us to follow, which we would dutifully try to make work. We would have deadlines set, and likely have failed at meeting them. Instead, we have a program that works at delivering value to our customers.

Our original strategy of becoming the best rural health care system in the United States was not stated in traditional strategic planning terms back in 2006. At that time, we had a limited view of what this goal meant, and my prior Health Division Director told me many times that we were already the best system in rural Alaska. Without traditional strategic planning limitations, we have accomplished so much, and have generated significant additional resources that we are willing to undertake a huge challenge, that of true prevention. I write about this in my Restoration to Health blog so I won’t repeat much of that initiative.

Our latest emerging Hoshin is proceeding along traditional Hoshin pathways. Chugachmiut has had considerable success in managing it’s office space needs over the past 5 years and accumulated substantial equity and very low occupancy costs. Mark Graban recently sponsored a discussion on lean design at his His work inspired our thinking. Chugachmiut has already adopted many lean improvements designed to facilitate work flow and eliminate waste in our building, but we realize as we continuously improve that some of our improvements will require an investment in space customized to facilitate lean—or lean design that builds quality into the workplace itself. We are at a beginning stage where we are discussing the drafting of a problem statement. We have learned that an outstanding problem statement is the key to a workable solution. This part of our Hoshin will be followed by what Dr. Jackson, our Sensei, refers to as “catchball” or the discussion and refinement of the problem statement and proposed solutions among all levels of the organization.

If we relied on traditional strategic planning, we would be developing simultaneous strategies for our board that would replace our 2006 strategies this year, and waiting until getting that direction in order to proceed. Since we have broken the 5 year strategic planning convention by adopting our Restoration to Health Strategy in 20010, we feel comfortable in preparing this strategy (Hoshin) and bringing it to the board. I am sure what we will find is what other lean designers have found—the accumulation of substantial additional value for our customers.

I will keep you informed about our progress.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Guselle, Lean Lawyer. Lean Lawyer said: RT @LeanBlog: Patrick Anderson: Hoshin Kanri #lean #CEO […]

Leave a Reply to Tweets that mention Hoshin Kanri « Lean in Alaska Blog -- Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: