Houshin Kanri and PDCA Management

In this month’s question over on the Lean Edge Klaus Peterson, Solar’s Group process manager asks how do we ensure focus on constant momentum on our lean journey?

My response over on the Lean Edge:

This question centers upon how do you maintain focus and momentum on a Lean journey. In a nutshell that is why Toyota developed and utilized its form of Houshin Kanri and PDCA management. Toyota did not invent these tools but they apply them as well as any company that I have come across. Honestly it is easy for any company in the world including Toyota to get off track at times and falter. It takes strong leadership to stay on course or to intentionally deviate when necessary. The first part of the submitted question uses the word “focus”. The term Houshin Kanri essentially mean managing with a needle point type of focus pointing out the ways to proceed. I won’t explain the process in any detail there is plenty of good information on the internet for interested parties. Senior management basically creates strategic and tactical goals which are cascaded throughout the organization to all necessary work teams. The process at least in Toyota is a mixture of top down methods and goal setting with heavy interaction and input from affected parties. There is a lot of behind the scenes dialogue going on with this process. Once set up the goals and specific actions to achieve those goals are reviewed quarterly, monthly, weekly, and some times daily in certain cases. It all depends upon the topic and level of scrutiny, etc. Proper application of this technique is what helps keep “focus” in place as long as it is cascaded properly and subjected to rigorous PDCA management reviews.

As for the pitfalls in terms of “momentum” I think it is a related topic. Failure to truly embrace PDCA style management (easier to talk about it than really do it) will stop momentum in its tracks. Instead of attaining improvements performance will go sideways with various excuses or feeble reasons why submitted…the other pitfall that I can think of is to fall into the practice of embracing tools for the sake of tool based implementation. Unfortunately posting standardized work charts on every process does not necessarily make you any better in terms of performance. Similarly I can post the periodic table on my wall in my office and it does not make me any more adept or capable in science for example. I have touched upon this before in previous posts about “process versus results” on this site. Training people is nice and part of the equation however to ensure both focus and momentum expertise in both Houshin style of management and PDCA style of management are required as well.