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Managing to Connect the Macro with the Micro

5/6/2013

“Just do like I told you and hit your objectives,” said the first executive. “Just do what you think best,” said the second executive.  

It is well accepted by now that "lean thinking and practice" is more than just a kit of process improvement tools. That's what has always separated the practice of lean thinking from the various process improvement models that have come and gone over the past few decades, such as  total quality management, six sigma, business process reengineering. Those toolkits were exactly that: toolkits to improve processes.

Lean thinking and practice begins - as does all systems thinking - with defining purpose or aim. What is the aim of this business, this system (this company, this value stream, this piece of work)? What problem are we trying to solve? What performance do we need to improve? Lean management addresses those questions and tackles them through PDCA, the Shewhart-Deming Plan – Do – Check – Act cycle.

One of the well-known processes of lean management is “policy deployment” – aka hoshin kanri. Perhaps the most common misconception about hoshin kanri is that it’s a top-down “deployment” process, a relatively straightforward prioritization activity in which the objectives of senior management are “deployed” throughout the organization.

Such “policy deployment” may be a good first step, but mature hoshin kanri is a much more dynamic process, in which lower levels of the organization don’t just execute strategy but help to formulate it. As your lean transformation matures, policy deployment should evolve into “strategy alignment.”  It should become a top-down, bottom-up, middle-out process that meshes problems that are technical and social in nature with solutions that are … both social and technical.

Lean management isn’t just KPI (Key Process Indicator) management. Neither is it just trying to make everyone feel engaged.

“I did as you told me and missed my objectives,” said the manager. “Do better next time, said the executive,” replied the executive. “Yeah, but…how?” thought the manager.

Management PDCA means applying the art & craft of science - PDCA - to the practice of management itself, to the task of aligning people and process to achieve purpose.

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Workshops

  • Strategy Deployment and Alignment through Hoshin
    This workshop will help leaders understand Policy Deployment as a process for "de-selecting" initiatives down to the ones the organization can really achieve while aligning them with company strategic objectives and deploying them down through the organizational ranks.

Articles

  • The Remarkable Chief Engineer
    How can a system in which "we are all connected and no one is in charge" support purposeful and productive work? Toyota's famed Chief Engineer system has much to offer in this regard. John Shook explores how the leadership styles of, and ways of working by, the CE might provide something of a roadmap for all of us.
  • How Standardized Work Integrates People With Process
    In this three part series on SW, John Shook argues that "the Toyota Way is a socio-technical system on steroids. A test for all our lean systems is the question of how well we integrate people with process (the social with the technical). Nowhere does that come together more than in the form of standardized work and kaizen."
  • Is Lean Thinking Art or Science? Yes
    Calling the recent book Lean Conversations a landmark initiative on lean and the arts, John Shook observes that "If Jean Cocteau’s famous observation that 'art is science made clear' has meaning, we can all benefit from further exploration of the relationship between lean thinking and art & science."