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Hoshin at LEI: Connecting More Closely with Our Customer

by Mark Reich
February 5, 2015

Hoshin at LEI: Connecting More Closely with Our Customer

by Mark Reich
February 5, 2015 | Comments (7)

At LEI our mission is to “Make things better through lean thinking and practice.” Some of you remember it used to be “advancing lean thinking throughout the world,” but as the lean community has changed, it’s been increasingly important to us to be clear on what we’re really trying to do – and that’s make things better, whether that’s products and services, the way organizations function, or working conditions for employees.

Our vision is the same as it’s always been, to serve as a bridge between theory and practice and help society improve through lean thinking. How do we aim to do it?

  • By supporting you, our community and customer, to make things better through lean thinking and practice (LT&P)
  • Encourage more individuals and organizations to try LT&P
  • Practice LT&P in all of our own activities
  • Partner with other companies and organizations who share the same mission
  • Create products and services that meet your needs by being interesting and most importantly, useful

How do we aim to do these things? To actually accomplish these goals? That’s where Hoshin comes in.

At LEI, we follow a Hoshin (Strategy Deployment) process to set our objectives. Near the end of each calendar year we reflect on what we accomplished the previous year, consider how we should challenge ourselves to better serve our customers and community members in the coming year, and reflect on our mission, vision, and strategic priorities. Then we set new goals. LEI has been working diligently to develop and execute a hoshin structure that brings out innovation of thought and process. As a small nonprofit, it’s taken us many cycles of PDCA to practice lean thinking ourselves and to closely connect our processes with our customer.

I personally spent many years in a large organization (Toyota) doing hoshin work to do exactly this. Whether you’re deploying hoshin in a small nonprofit or a huge organization, the struggles are the same. How do you create alignment across the organization? How do you get team members more actively engaged with the work? How do you encourage and create the conditions for a culture of continuous improvement, including daily PDCA? How do you do Hoshin deployment without overburdening your team members?

As leaders, how do we create a deployment structure that gets each team member to think about the customer and the “why” behind the problems he/she is trying to solve for the customer and for the organization? How do we motivate people to seek alignment with company objectives both horizontally and vertically? Whatever the work is, how do we support people in taking ownership of their work and how do we help people build their problem solving capability?

This graphic below is one I use to show the importance and thinking behind building vertical and horizontal alignment. Use this in your own organization if you’d like.


As the lean community has grown, our #1 hoshin item was to better define and understand you, LEI’s customer and community member. In the coming weeks, we’ll share reflection pieces on various LEI hoshin items  – some of which have carried over into the next year. 

In the meantime, let me know if you have questions about Hoshin or LEI and I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.

Join Mark Reich for LEI's Live Online Workshop: Hoshin Kanri Remotely - Aligning and Executing on Your Organizational Objectives starting June 22nd.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  hoshin kanri,  strategy
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7 Comments | Post a Comment
Steve Ghera February 09, 2015
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Hi Mark,

Thank you for the shared learning. It’s great to see the masters are using this and willing to share their story.

As I read the mission and vision that you described, I’m just not able to grasp the future that LEI seeks to create. LEI’s mission is abundantly clear.   LEI’s professionals are helping the world understand and practice lean thinking to make things better. What is the ideal final state that LEI is working to create?

I ask this because I’m working with an organization to help them be teachers and coaches of Lean Thinking. I was comparing our mission and vision to LEI’s. So far, our missions are contextually similar. I would just like to check our visions.   Thanks!

Reply »

Mark Reich February 22, 2015

Great observation Steve.  Actually, our #1 Objective for this year is to establish a clearer vision and define a clear short and long term plan for our organization.  In prepartion for that thinking, this past year each of our value streams established 2-year strategies.  But we also need to be thinking longer term.  Good input.

Reply »

Jared Akins February 11, 2015

Dear Mr. Reich,

Thank you for posting this article.  I worked previously with a company who was in the early stages (2years) of using strategy deployment.  It was a great feeling to get aligned with the corporate and executive goals.  In addition, creating the big out of the box goals truly pushed our thinking.  The issues I found, which got in our way during this time included employees feeling like they were additional projects to take on, outside interests competing with the identified goals, and a lack of consistency in the prioritization of the identified goals. With these in mind we still achieved excellent results.

Now I find myself at a utility company teaching and practicing Lean. One of the core items I find missing is the lack of a strategy deployment process. We have a very good mission statement, but from there our company initiatives and goals start to go very broad. It is in fact easy to at least loosely tie almost any goal you can think of to these broad brushed goals. I personally would like to see a specific set of a few goals that we can all align to using Hoshin Kanri. The company I worked for previously was intentionally driving to use Hoshin Kanri. However, in this new company it is barely on most top leader’s radar. Do you have any recommendations for a Lean Leader/Facilitator in this position?

Thank you again for your helpful articles.

Reply »

Mark Reich February 22, 2015

Hi Jared,

Sorry for the delay in response.  In order to ensure that your goals/objectives are broken from broad brush objectives to specific activities is to clearly define what those specific activities are and targets to achieve the individual activities.

Also, most importantly, what is the problem we are trying to solve with each hoshin objective?  In Toyota, we used the A3 to bring clarity to the problem we are trying to solve.  

It is also important, as the graphic in my post illlustrates, that the hoshin objective and activities be broken down at each level in the organization in order to engage the appropriate staff broadly and deeply.

Thanks for the thoughtful question.


Reply »

premkumar May 30, 2019

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the learning sharing, requesting clarification.

My doubt as below, how much drill down to be done using the tool hoshin kanri.

Whether this tools is useful if it is linked to the shop floor

Hope i  posted the question in right way.


Premkumar T

Reply »

Mark Reich June 02, 2019

Hello Premkumar,

Thank you for your question. Hoshin Kanri is useful to drill down to the shop floor level.  This is very important. We want all Team Members to feel connected to the higher purpose and objectives of the organization and hoshin kanri can be one way.

Furthermore, hoshin kanri can be both top down and bottom up. So issues at the shop floor can be raised up to be addressed at the plant management level or overall coroporate level hoshin. 

We are now in Japan visiting an amazing example of this at Toyota Motor Kyushu. 

Reply »

Troy Nguyen May 30, 2019

yup.! we got mapping day to apply this one 

Reply »

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