Lean Manufacturing Tools: Hoshin Kanri

Many companies put the cart before the wheel and put more emphasis on the ends and not the means. Hoshin Kanri is created to turn things around in such situations, prioritizing the strategic plan ahead of the achievement of bottom-line goals. It aims to redirect the investment plans inwards toward strategy deployment processes.

Many companies struggle with lean manufacturing and 5S in general. In fact, a blog post is dedicated to the bottlenecks in the production process. But Hoshin Kanri, by design, not only helps companies articulate goals and challenges to goal realization but also facilitates the achievement of goals and objectives.

As such, the strategy deployment methodology must be applied with an emphasis on certain aspects of the organizational framework in order to make an impact on the profitability of the business. There are certain challenges which must be addressed during the implementation of Hoshin Kanri to enhance the prospects of the successful adoption of the business philosophy.

However, many companies that deploy Hoshin Kanri are usually unaware of the quintessence of the business philosophy. Such companies tend to misjudge Hoshin Kanri to be primarily a planning tool and secondarily a pattern of communication.

Hoshin Kanri: A Planning Tool or a Communication Strategy Framework

Hoshin Kanri is a methodology that instills cohesion and synergy in the organizational activities of a manufacturing firm. It aims to keep all low-level goals and objectives in absolute alignment with the well-articulated overarching objectives.

This nature is clearly defined by the seven steps of the process:

  1. Establishment of organizational vision
  2. Establishment of “Breakthrough” (3-5 Years) objectives
  3. Establishment of annual objectives
  4. Deployment of annual objectives
  5. Implementation of annual objectives
  6. Monthly reviews
  7. Annual reviews

These steps lend themselves more as components of a communication strategy framework and less as a planning tool. The process serves mainly to enhance the efficient circulation of information about the goals and activities of the organization. This eliminates ambiguity in the communication of goals and objectives, fostering cohesion in concerted efforts. At the same time, it also promotes the independence of operational units, giving them greater openings to exercise their discretion.

But to successfully adopt Hoshin Kanri and enjoy the benefits of manufacturing metrics, a company must seek to address certain problems.

The Biggest Obstacles that Must Be Addressed to Adopt Koshin Kanri Successfully

The Prioritization of Long-Term Actions Over Imminent Needs

Strategic planning no doubt revolves around making preparations for the future. However, it must not be done at the expense of immanent needs, including the need to gain insights into the status quo and current performances.

A lot of things can go wrong that can’t be fixed by the strategic planning methodology if attention to current processes is sacrificed for the focus on strategic planning. Such problems can have long-term consequences that negatively impact the future which the strategic planning is focused on.

Hoshin Kanri starts with the analyses of data about the current processes to determine the nature of the problems currently being faced. It compels leaders to come to terms with the risks and complexities associated with the current processes and how to handle these challenges effectively.


Incompatible Goals

Many companies struggle with meeting up with incongruous goals that are derived from the use of various datasets. This is even worse in cases where the pattern of communication flow is decisively top-down, and the emphasis is placed on the goals and not on the means of achieving them.

Hoshin Kanri provides companies with measures such as the True North as well as the Catchball (alignment) processes that help induce coherence in the formulation of goals.


Incongruous Action Plans

It’s common for companies to create strategic plans that consist of divergent action plans that obscure the visibility of overarching organizational goals. Hoshin Kanri helps companies determine long-term goals and strategies in accordance with the company’s vision and mission, in a manner that also prioritizes short-term goals, hence, fostering cohesion in the creation of action plans for both short-term and long-term goal realization.

In particular, the use of A3 thinking in Hoshin Kanri helps companies to properly articulate goals and actions. And through nemawashi (communication, involvement, debate and consensus), the company can deploy the True North technique to create strategic A3s, as well as lower-level A3s.


Conflicting Low-Level Goals

As noted earlier, Hoshin Kanri is primarily a communication strategy framework, and one of its priorities is to establish the roles of departments as well as the scope of their low-level goals. The aim of this is to ensure that the departments all work together by pursuing different goals that all ultimately contribute to the fulfillment of overarching goals.

This requires effective cross-functional communication, where various departments communicate their goals and action plans regarding the common goals on the backdrop of the bigger picture.

One way to ensure that cross-functional communication takes place effectively is through the use of presentations that bring departmental heads together for them to explain their A3 problem-solving plans to each other. This helps the various departments to create goals and action plans that do not directly or indirectly hinder other departments from achieving their low-level goals.


The Emphasis on the Strategies and not the Action Plans for Deploying the Strategy

The articulation of strategies often requires a lot of attention and brainstorming, from consultation with field experts to the formulation of processes the analyses of possible future events. However, without concrete action plans, a company will easily run into difficulties implementing these strategies. In such cases, the planning phase takes up most of the attention and resources, while the deployment phase is then deprived of the necessary resources, and there’s nearly no focus on the monitoring and adjustment processes for the deployment.

Hoshin Kanri places primary focus on the articulation of strategies. But it also emphasizes the deployment of the strategy and the action plans for the actualization of objectives.


Hoshin Kanri is designed to help companies identify the hindrances to the fulfillment of organizational goals. It compels the management to focus on the definition of goals and targets as well as the possible challenges hindering the fulfillment of those goals.

Is your company struggling with the achievement of goals due to the lack of facilities, expertise or balanced focus on both the formulation of plans and the enactment of actions? Beside adopting Hoshin Kanri, investing in a smart solution to manage your shop floor also can help you. Sign up for free and find out how.