Hoshin kanri – Strategic Approach to continuous Improvement

Organisations that have applied Hoshin Kanri have in some cases come from being also rans in their field to becoming performance record breakers in only a matter of 3 to 4 years. Hoshin Kanri is not a difficult concept to understand or to apply. Most organisations will have some of its elements in place and in some cases a large percentage. However, Hoshin Kanri does require meticulous planning, targeted benchmarking and the effective and systematic use of the tools for continuous improvement at all levels of the workforce. In short it is a means of managing a business.

Hoshin Kanri is a Japanese management term which has no direct equivalent in the English language. The term roughly embraces four key elements of business management namely: Vision, Policy Development, Policy Deployment and Policy Control. It is also directly linked to a fifth, which is TQM, which is the means by which the Goals, which have been determined in the Hoshin Kanri process, are achieved.

1. The Goals, aims and future scope of the organisation are derived from the Vision.
2.It requires the development of Strategy, Policy, Benchmarking and Targets.
3.The deployment of the Targets must be to all levels through a cascade process and the creation of policy at each level of management.
4. There must be a feedback loop of results to complete the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle which is the Shewhart Cycle (which some nowadays refer to as the Deming Wheel).
5.It has no value unless it also includes TQM (the Japanese version not the suspect version that fluttered for a while in the West in the late 1980s) which is not part of Hoshin Kanri but represents the Do part of the PDCA Cycle

Hoshin Kanri and Japanese-style TQM are intrinsically related to each other. In fact, the Japanese would say that Hoshin Kanri represents the ‘what it is that we want to achieve’ and TQM (often referred to as Total Quality Control or TQC) is the means by which to close the gap between Current Performance and target performance. Japanese TQC/M includes everything that is to be found in Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and Quality Circles and all other quality-related sciences and disciplines. It would be nice to be able to include an in-depth treatment of all of these in this book but unfortunately it would then extend to several volumes. The intention has been to provide a solid base on all the key concepts and to encourage organisations to acquire ever greater expertise in each of the disciplines. As Professor Ishikawa said on many occasions, ‘Quality begins and ends with education.’

The term Hoshin Kanri has four components:
Ho – means Direction.
Shin – refers to Focus.
Kan – refers to Alignment.
Ri – means Reason.

It can be likened to ‘a leading star’ or the way that one point of a compass always points towards the North Pole. Perhaps more appropriate is the way that iron filings go into alignment on a piece of paper if the pole of a magnet is placed underneath. Each small iron filing could be considered to be just one employee with everyone focused towards the Vision and Aims of the organisation. The concept is based on the principle that the most powerful organisation is the one which has managed to harness the creative-thinking power of all of its employees in order to make the organisation the best in its business. It requires that each person in an organisation be regarded as the expert at their own job and their contribution recognised. All the members of an organisation must have a clear understanding of the organisation’s Vision and Goals. With all members in perfect alignment and clearly understanding their own role in the achievement of those Goals as they are trained and encouraged to work together to achieve them, then the productive power of the organisation would be optimal.

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