Mar 29, 2013

Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment

In his excellent Beyond Lean blog, Matt Wrye is hosting a Hoshin Kanri week and asked me to be one of the guest bloggers. Be sure to check out more posts from knowledge leaders. When Matt started up his blog, I immediately recognized it as top notch. He stands out as a blogger because he has a "real job" implementing lean in a large company. (Nothing against consultants, but the stakes are higher for guys like Matt.)

As I wrote in Part One of this two-part article, Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment: Japanese manufacturing leaders listen to Dr. Juranin the 1950s Dr. Joseph Juran began to develop a process for deploying a statistical quality control (SQC) policy that, I believe, was the foundation for hoshin kanri. Japanese companies began to apply the deployment method to more than just quality policy.

Part Two: Toyota takes the lead in deploying business strategy

When Toyota’s executives went to Dr. Juran’s classes, they couldn’t take pride in the quality of its post-war products. By 1961, although Toyota had implemented SQC, they had still failed to produce cars with acceptable overall quality. Toyota kept learning, now working toward total quality control (TQC) and by 1965, won their Deming Prize. They also passed Nissan as an industry leading company. Nissan had won its Deming Prize in 1960, and advanced into TQC but had treated it as a superficial cheerleading campaign. Toyota took TQC to heart and began transforming products, processes, and the organization.

In 1969, Bridgestone was striving to rotate the plan-do-check-act cycle, with all employees involved. They called its strategy “hoshin kanri.” One of the early writers on hoshin kanri, Yoshio Kondo saw its essence as the process of fully involving people through practices like catchball. He says:

Why do companies expend so much time and effort on “catchball”? It is because the discussion that takes place among the people taking part at the various different levels of the organization deepens their understanding of the policies and enables them to think about both the “necessity” and “possibility” aspects of the proposed targets. Through this process, companies hope to effect a qualitative change in top-down mandatory targets, turning them into bottom-up voluntary targets. I hardly need to repeat that this is an extremely effective way of motivating people to achieve their targets.

Both Juran and Kondo saw hoshin kanri’s purpose as deploying quality in manufacturing. Juran was more product and process oriented. Kondo emphasized the human side of hoshin kanri.

Behind the scenes, Toyota was enlarging the scope of policy deployment. In addition to quality, Toyota integrated customer satisfaction, productivity, cost, delivery, morale and other factors into strategy that they deployed in the manner described by Juran, They incorporated refinements from hoshin kanri. They approached all their business, corporate citizenship, and other goals through PDCA, scientific thinking, and a culture of learning.

Since Juran’s and Kondo’s writings were published, dozens -- if not hundreds -- of books, lectures, and workshops professing themselves to teach hoshin kanri have followed. In addition to the macro-level concepts, managers need to see the nuts and bolts level of applying it to a business. To choose one example, Tom Jackson’s approach is very practical, using examples and step-by-step guidance. Nested PDCA wheels, A3s, X diagrams, value stream maps, the role of six sigma, problem-solving -- all there. There’s no cookbook for hoshin kanri -- Tom Jackson would be the last to say there is -- but now we have explicit descriptions based on the experience of many Western companies.

I’ve talked about three stops along hoshin kanri’s evolutionary path. From Juran’s focus on product quality to Kondo’s emphasis on people, to having Jackson’s help in understanding and applying tools. By taking them together, while doing some extrapolating and thinking, you should be on your way toward understanding hoshin kanri.


  • Joseph Juran, Quality Control and Inspection, Publication L51-94, Industrial College of the Armed Forces. 1951.
  • Joseph Juran, Juran on Leadership for Quality: An Executive Handbook, The Free Press, division of Macmillan. 1998.
  • Takahiro Fujimoto, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, Oxford University Press. 1999.
  • Yoshio Kondo, Hoshin kanri -- a participative way of quality management in Japan, TQM Magazine, American Society for Quality Control, 1998.
  • Thomas L. Jackson, Hoshin kanri for the lean enterprise: developing competitive capabilities and managing profit, Productivity Press. 2006.


Joe Dager said...

Karen, enjoyed both your articles.

I would like to add one reference, Hoshin Kanri: Policy Deployment for Successful TQM by Yoji Akao. Though a favorite book on the subject, it is probably not for everyone. It is not an easy read and far removed from a step by step approach. In fact, I found myself playing a little catchball with the book!

Unknown said...

I wanted to use the Akao book, but figured out that it would be helpful too late to buy it. I decided to stick with what I had in my own library, so there are some other worthy sources out there. Anything worth learning takes time. Same with the Fujimoto book. Thanks for the push on the Akao book -- I should buy it after all.

Thanks for reading and commenting...

Michel Baudin said...

Dear Karen:

I think you might be interested in a couple of articles I have recently published on the subject, addressing particularly what works and what doesn't in changing culture. One is on LinkedIn and the other one, on my blog, is a translation of an interview in a Russian business magazine:

Lean and the corporate culture (

Lean and national cultures: interview in Russia's Business Excellence magazine

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