What is strategy deployment—and why should you care? Within Toyota it’s known as hoshin kanri,1 the planning and execution system that has guided the development of the world’s most powerful production system. At Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada plant in Cambridge, Ontario, strategy deployment steered us through the chaos and stress of continual expansion. In 10 years we grew froma cornfield to a 3,000-person company making 230,000 cars per year. Remarkably, in Cambridge our safety, quality, cost, and throughput results kept improving, and we were showered with awards. The system kept us humble. “How can they give us an award?” we’d wonder. “We have so many problems.” It was quite a journey. Only now, years later, am I able to grasp what really happened, how we avoidedcatastrophe, and got so strong. It was my blind luck to work with a master trainer. (If you see this, Shin-san, I am in your debt.) The past six years, I have been the sensei,2 teaching the system outside Toyota, to both automotive and nonautomotive manufacturers, and to the process, service, and construction industries. Each implementation has deepened my understanding. What have I learned? Eachcompany and sector is different, and most companies are not Toyota. We must tailor the planning and execution system to fit the business as it is, warts and all. But why should you care? Well, strategy deployment will focus and align your activities, and allow you to respond quickly to threats and opportunities. Moreover, it’s a human system. People respond because it acknowledges theirindividuality. With strategy deployment, we don’t tell—we ask questions. We don’t command—we engage. Our people are not human resources—they’re human resources. Most important, we try not to bore with meaningless data—we try to tell interesting stories.
1. Also known as hoshin management, policy management, and policy deployment. 2. Sensei means teacher, mentor, or one who has gone before.
Getting theRight Things Done
Strategy deployment is the antithesis to “command and control,” still our predominant mental model and the reason the cartoon Dilbert is so popular. Command and control can suck the zest and meaning out of work. Insidious, it lives in the minds of supervisors, managers, and executives. Once we’re promoted, we think our job is telling people what to do. “Very strange,” mysensei once said. “In North America you manage business the way the Soviets managed their economy.” If you’re a manufacturer facing low-cost global producers or other companykilling threats, strategy deployment can save the jobs that sustain your community. These days, manufacturers have little room for error. The ship is in the deep water and the storm shows no sign of abating. But maybe you’re nota manufacturer. Maybe you’re a service provider, a software developer, a bank, a hospital, an insurance company. The storms are no less threatening. You might be facing your own challenges. Jobs that seemed secure just a few years ago are melting away—customer service, software development, engineering, research and development, and accounting jobs. Strategy deployment is especially important forlean practitioners because it ensures that “lean” is aimed at the heart of the enterprise. Lean thinking begins by defining value—what’s important to the customer. If lean serves the core needs of the customer—safety, quality, delivery, and cost—and is introduced at the highest levels of the organization, it’s forever. By contrast, if lean is peripheral or introduced at lower organizationallevels, it’ll have a limited half-life—a major loss, given the exceptional track record of lean thinking. Strategy deployment can also keep lean practitioners focused on the prize —creating value for the customer. Sometimes we forget that the elegant lean tools—value-stream mapping, standardized work, pull systems, and so on—are means to this end, and not ends in themselves.