“Nothing endures but change.”- Heraclitus


I was thinking about this quote as we have moved into the fall season. It was inevitable being in the Midwest that the weather starts to change and how it is becoming cooler out. It seems like we just got out of the blazing 900+F heat and high humidity; the kind of repressive heat where you don’t feel like doing anything. Now, we have to consider turning the heat back on and putting on sweaters. Why should I be so shocked? This happens every year right about this time.

I started to think how this applies to some companies pursuing Lean. They go along trying to make improvements at the same time trying to serve their customers all while the economy is slow and then – wham, the season changes. I was talking with an HR manager at a company recently and we were talking about their Lean initiatives. A few months ago he told me that they couldn’t work on any Lean projects because business was too slow. They couldn’t afford to have people working on things that didn’t bring in revenue for the company. He told me now they are too busy with work and don’t have time to work on Lean projects. So when is it the right time? He joked and said probably at the inflection point of not being busy and being busy. Unfortunately, that is the wrong answer. It is called “continuous improvement”, not “once in a while improvement when we’re not too busy.” I run into this all the time – when times are slow companies don’t want to use resources for improvement. When things are good they don’t have the time. The truth is you have to always be pursuing improvement. When things are down, this is the perfect time to prepare for when things pick-up. You can be ahead of the curve and your competition. When things are going gangbusters you probably could use the extra capacity or need to solve a quality or service problem. So the right time is all the time. “Nothing endures but change.”

Let me know your thoughts of when it is the right time to pursue Lean.

Thanks – Tony

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” – Henry Ford

Alber Kahn - industrial architech to Henry Ford (c.1935)

As you can probably tell, I am on a kick for Hoshin Kanri lately. I think this is for a host of reasons:

  • I just had an article published in the American Society for Quality’s Six Sigma Forum Magazine called “Hoshin Promotion
  • 5S Supply is offering a free webinar covering the basics of Hoshin on Wednesday, September 23, 2010,
  • I’ll be presenting a full one day workshop Hands-on Hoshin for Everyone at the first annual Visual Workplace Summit October, 26, 2010,
  • I was selected to present a paper on Demystifying the X-Matrix at next year’s Lean Six Sigma Conference, and
  • 5S Supply is preparing to go into our planning session for next year.

People underestimate the power of preparing for their Hoshin planning session. I think many people believe that you just gather the top executives, get them off-site (preferably a place where they can play golf), sit them down for a couple of days and magically the strategic plan is created for next year. O.k., for some companies that is how it actually happens. 

But for the rest of us, getting ready for the session is critical. Here are some tips to make this process a little better.

1)      Be off-site – This sounds like a scam, but I recommend this for two reasons:

  1. It allows management to focus without interruptions from the day-to-day tasks, and
  2. Putting people is a different, pleasant surrounding may spark imagination, creativity and innovation.

2)      Prepare for the Environmental Scan – keep a running tab, file, post-it notes or what ever system you want to keep items that will be included into the environmental scan throughout the year prior to going into the planning session. We use several categories for the environmental scan such as economic, social-cultural, technological, political and legal, macro-industry, resources, market, competitors and suppliers. Whenever you come across a useful piece of information related to any of these categories read it and keep it for the planning session. You can’t possibly remember something interesting, fact or statistic from eleven months ago that could have a possible impact on your business next year. Create a system to keep this information readily available to you as you prepare for the Hoshin Kanri session.

3)      Have an experienced facilitator – this process will work better if you have person lead you through the process. Of course if makes sense to have someone (or more than one) person act as the time-keeper, scribe, coach, mentor, and referee. Use can use someone internal or bring in an external resource. The facilitator will make sure that all the appropriate items are ready onsite for the management team. This person’s number one goal should be to keep everyone on track, focused, and committed to bringing about the framework for your Hoshin plan.

So these were a few quick tips on getting ready for your Hoshin Kanri session. I’m sure I’ll have more coming soon in the blog – stay tuned. If we prepare correctly our Hoshin planning session will go much smoother and hopefully with better results.

Please share what’s worked for you in the past (or what hasn’t) when it comes to Hoshin Kanri or your strategic planning sessions.

 Thanks – Tony

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

I like this quote because it tells me that we have to keep moving forward. I am proud of all the things that our company was able to accomplish this year but I have an eye on the future. You might be able to tell that I am actually getting excited that our company is going start our Hoshin Planning for 2011. Let me correct that a little – we already have our long-term plan, we are going to make our adjustments and plan our strategy for 2011. I am glad that we use Hoshin Kanri as our method for planning. It has really helped us with the “Shiny Object Syndrome”, you know the thing that gets your attention and leads you off your chosen path. Now I’m not against changing course when required; I think every company has to at one point or another. What I am talking about is putting resources (time, people, and budgets) into something just because it seems urgent. Remember, there is a difference between what’s important and what’s urgent. Have you ever had the experience that you thought something was very urgent, but you just couldn’t get to it or finish it? Them you realize a couple of days later that it wasn’t that important after all? I know this has happened to me more than once so that’s probably why I like having our plan to refer back to.

While visiting a company last week, the president asked key members of his staff “How should we communicate why we are pursuing Lean as one of our strategies?” I think the team came up with a great answer. The company had just recently completed its Values, Vision and Mission (VVM). When they were asked “Why should we do Lean?” the answer was in their VVM. This really made an impression on me because they had something very tangible to refer to. They had their VVM printed on nice posters hung in prominent locations around the facility.

5S Supply's Vision, Mission and Values

At 5S Supply we have our Vision, Mission, Values posted right in our entryway for everyone to see when they come in. We even have a little ritual to recite one of these as you walk in to help reaffirm them in our own minds.

So as we get closer to our planning session, it is important to think about the “Why” that you are in business. Take a look at your Values, Vision and Mission. Do you think they fit for your organization? Are they current? Does everyone live these? To help you get your Hoshin Kanri going, we are offering a Free Webinar – Hoshin Promotion on September, 22 2010. Also, you can check out an article I wrote that was just published in ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum Magazine titled Hoshin Promotion.

If you have stories about what worked or what didn’t when it comes to business planning or Hoshin Kanri I would like to hear them. Thanks – Tony