‘The gap between strategy formulation and its implementation has been cited as one of the main reasons why strategies fail’
(Kunonga, Whitty & Singleton, 2009)
Hoshin Kanri focuses attention on key activities for success and through that it helps to close the gap between strategy and implementation. Known in the West as ‘Policy Deployment or Strategy Deployment’, Hoshin Kanri, developed in Japan in late 50s/early 1960s to communicate a company’s policy, goals and objectives internally and it was blended from learning from the works of Deming, Juran and theories about management by objectives. Ishikawa first published about the importance of managerial policies in 1957.
Hoshin means: a compass; course; policy; plan; aim and Kanri: Management control, care for so taken together Hoshin Kanri can be interpreted as management control of the companies focus (Total Quality Engineering, 1997) or it has also been described more metaphorically as ‘Shiny metal – the glint from the spear of a forward guide that leads the way’ (Centre for Quality Management, 1997) or more simply as Target-means deployment’ (Watson, 1991) It has more lengthily been described as to ‘Deploy and share the direction, goals and approaches of corporate management from top management to employees and for each unit of the organisation to conduct work according to the plan. Then, evaluate, investigate and feedback the results, or go through the cycle of PDCA continuously and attempt to continuously improve the performance of the organisation.’ (Eureka and Ryan, 1990). It is worth noting the inclusion of ‘feedback’ – also known as ‘catchball’ (Dale, 1990), this approach is not about diktaks from on high passing through as repetitive orders, but more of a reciprocal learning process between employees and stakeholders in an organisations working out how to deliver its customers needs now and into the future, deciding together the priorities and the way of delivering them.
Does it sound a little familiar? Strategic Quality Management is defined as a system to develop policy, communicate, allocate resources, focus and align actions and control corporate drift and there are many academics and writers in this area: Ansoff (1969); Juran (1964); Mintzberg (1994); Porter (1996). What makes it different is the application of TQM within it, or (PDCA type approaches).
Hoshin kanri helps create cohesiveness within a business that is understood throughout the company and it provides a structure with which to identify clear organisational goals (Newcomb, 1989) and in many ways it is fundamental to Total Quality Management (TQM) and other similar quality improvement approaches. The discipline of policy deployment and agreement at each level ensures everyone is working in the same direction and ‘there is little doubt that the PD method can assist an organisation to attain its corporate goals’ (Dale, 1990). It ensures improvement activities are integrated into corporate objectives and it can resolve conflicts in time, resource and initiatives. It is a diagnostic tool as well as an objective setting tool, it is bottom up and top down, It helps to focus on the vital few rather than the trivial many (Cross and Leonard, 1994).
However, it can be difficult to differentiate between policies and goals, and to balance the concreteness and the abstractness of policies and goals when deploying policy. Trying to use hoshin kanri can be cynically seen (or realistically seen?!) as paying lip service to employee feedback during catchball or vice versa it can been seen as an opportunity for ‘empowered’ employees to take decisions without adequate direction or a permit for different groups of staff to abdicate responsibility for delivery, (Kogure, 1995; Integrated Quality Dynamics, 1997), and of course, like many processes it can become ritualistic and compliance orientated.
There are a few well known case studies, but few in healthcare: Bridgestone Tire Company (1962, cited by Lee & Dale, 1998); Hewlett Packard (Whiting, 1990); NEC Japan (Smith, 1994); Philips (Hill,1994); Proctor and Gamble (Zairi, 1994); Harris Semi-conductors, (Robinson, 1994); Xerox (Leo, 1996; Witcher & Butterworth, 1999); Florida Power and Light Company (Kendrick, 1998); Texas Instruments (Tennant & Roberts, 2001; Witcher & Butterworth, 2000); Lucent Technologies & AT&T (Witcher & Butterworth, 2000); Nissan (Chau & Witcher, 2008); Toyota (Marksberry et al, 2011). The NHS North East (Kunonga et al, 2010) used policy deployment alongside the North East Transformation System (NETS) work and it was also used at Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
My reflections of trying to use hoshin kanri in healthcare I found it difficult to adapt the process to both the local and national NHS context and I wasn’t sure about the validity of approach in non-industrial settings and organisations that were organised very differently to the corporates listed above, adapting the approach to suit was challenging. The complexity of healthcare environment, many different ‘customers’ – competition for prioritisation through lobby groups, media, professional tribes, medical specialities, sub specialities, commissioning, regulatory requirements, unions, local authority, other local providers, etc, made whittling down to the vital few tricky. The overwhelming short term focus of NHS challenged the setting of five year goals. Rapid leadership changes, sketchy informatics support, overlapping governance structures and often preposterously short planning horizons also reduced the effectiveness of catchball. I reflect it was sometimes easier to drown in the paperwork of writing down the goals than engaging in a difficult dialogue about priorities, and thus lose the purpose of hoshin kanri.
Despite this, the potential benefits to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and implementation, outweigh the problems which could be resolved with commitment, careful action and learning from previous attempts. The focus of hoshin kanri to move from defining solutions to a more dynamic and emergent process, continues to be relevant, especially in a healthcare system trying harder to listen to staff and to agree priorities and make hard choices together.
“The nature of strategic issues, especially in dynamic, complex environments, requires a fundamental change in how strategic planning is conducted. The focus of the exercise must shift from defining the solution for problems which are assumed to exist, to defining a process which is responsive to the wicked characteristics of the perceived issues, a process which is alive and changing as additional learning takes place, a process which is inclusive, cross‐functional, cross‐hierarchical, iterative and self‐correcting”
Gilmore and Camillus (1996)
References & Bibliography
Akao, Y. (1991), Hoshin Kanri: Policy Deployment for Successful TQM, Productivity Press Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Ansoff, I. (1969), Corporate Strategy, Penguin Books, Baltimore Centre for Quality Management (1997), Hoshin Planning Course Notes, Cambridge, MA
Chao, V.S. & Witcher, B.J. (2008) “Dynamic capabilities for strategic team performance management: the case of Nissan”, Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 14:3/4, pp.179 – 191
Cross, R. and Leonard, P. (1994), “Benchmarking: a strategic and tactical perspectives” (Chapter 24), in Dale, B.G. (Ed.), Managing Quality, 2nd ed., Prentice‐Hall, Hemel Hempstead.
Dale, B.G. (1990), “Policy deployment”, The TQM Magazine, December, pp. 321‐4
Lee & Dale B.G., (1998) “Policy deployment: an examination of the theory”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 15:5, pp.520 – 540 Eureka,
W.E. and Ryan, N.E. (1990), The Process‐Driven Business: Managerial Perspectives on Policy Management, ASI Press,
Dearborn, USA. Gilmore, W.S. and Camillus, J.C. (1996), “Do your planning processes meet the reality test?”, Long Range Planning, 29:6, pp. 869‐79
Goal/QPC Research (1996), “Hoshin planning” Goal/QPC Research Committee (1994), “Hoshin planning: a planning system for implementing total quality management”, in Costin, H.I. (Ed.), Readings in Total Quality Management, The Dryden Press Hill, (1994)
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