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Create the Hoshin Plan

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Now that you have defined your future state and understand what gaps you need to bridge to get there, it’s time to create a plan for action. In Lean, there is a form of strategic planning called hoshin kanri, also known as hoshin planning, or policy deployment. Hoshin means “set direction” and kanri means “together.” With hoshin planning, you set a direction together with your team and organization, which is a bit different than a traditional strategic planning process.

The first step in creating a hoshin plan is to list the top three to five long-term or ultimate goals from your future state. Then, you and your team develop a set of intermediate-term (three to five years out) breakthrough objectives. Breakthrough objectives are very significant improvements or changes, and they should be linked to each of the long-term goals from above. Next, you develop a set of annual objectives for the next year that are tied to each of the breakthrough objectives. Keep SMART in mind for the objectives: you want them to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

I once ran a very successful company that manufactured products based on a single material: silicone. Although we were the leaders in the industry and the properties of the material were very unique, we were always aware of the danger that a competitor could develop an alternate or improved material. In our hoshin plan, we had a long-term goal to be more diversified and protected from such a disruption. The related intermediate-term breakthrough objective was to have a specific but small (due to lengthy development timelines) percentage of our business use non-silicone materials. Our annual objectives were to first identify specific types of alternate materials that might fit with our technology and existing customer base, then determine whether that investment should come from an organic development or an acquisition, andthen to start production.

Many leaders forget two critical components when planning: who will implement the objectives and how they will be implemented. Sometimes, a leader will assign the who and let that person decide how it will be done. It is critical to assign specific people to be responsible for each breakthrough and annual objectives and also to determine how the objectives will be accomplished. It is important to know in advance if there will be sufficient resources to accomplish all of the goals or if other activities may need to be reduced in priority.

The last step is to validate the hoshin plan with all stakeholders by performing what is known as catchball. Catchball is a process where the plan is circulated among the people who will be responsible for its implementation, prior to undertaking it. Stakeholders confirm that the plan is realistic and supports the principles and why? of the company, then offer suggestions for improvement if necessary. The output of catchball is a plan that everyone agrees on and has ownership in.