How Hoshin Was Born

How Hoshin Was Born

And Why, Whatever You Call It, It Will Work For Your Hospital

By Steven A. Reed

The problem with traditional strategic planning is that it is top-down, with little input from the broad constituency an organization embodies. Consequently, it is the rare trategic plan that actually gets executed. Most end up in three-ring binders collecting dust on shelves.

As a result, organizations have sought alternative methods of setting direction and improving performance. One of the first and best of these approaches is an import during the 1970s and ’80s from Japan called hoshin kanri. In essence, hoshin kanri is a way of making dramatic improvements in a short time.

Hoshin kanri has been widely used in Japan for more than 40 years. But it was not a Japanese invention. Hoshin traces its genealogy to Douglas MacArthur, Edward Deming, Peter Drucker and what became the U.S. quality movement.

In its simplest form, hoshin kanri is nothing more than a system to analyze situations, create plans for improvement, conduct performance checks and take appropriate action. What truly distinguishes a hoshin-based planning and management system from conventional strategic planning is how hoshin principles integrate planning throughout all aspects of the organization.

Hoshin-based planning is different, but it’s like using a better golf club or tennis racquet: It doesn’t look that much different, and you can quickly get used to its feel — and your game improves as you learn how to use it to your best advantage.

Creating a Breakthrough for Your Organization

“To do hoshin planning is not the goal—to use hoshin planning to create breakthroughs for the organization and the people it serves is the goal.” Sister M. Louise Bush, President and CEO, SSM-Ministry Corporation

Hoshin planning is neither a pre-packaged system nor a cookbook. There are planning systems (and even software applications) based on hoshin kanri principles, but “hoshin” is truly a philosophical approach to planning and management more than it is any particular system. And that is one of the things that make it so easily usable.

First of all, you don’t have to call it “hoshin.” We call it Master Planning, but it goes by many names: Hoshin Planning, Hoshin Kanri, Hoshin Management, Policy Deployment, Breakthrough Planning, Strategic Quality Planning and Management by Planning (MBP) are among the most common. It can be employed to enrich and empower your planning and management without ever being called anything in particular.

Second, you don’t have to gain acceptance for a new planning process or go through special training to learn a whole new “way” of planning. Hoshin-based planning is different, but it’s like using a better golf club or tennis racquet: It doesn’t look that much different, and you can quickly get used to its feel — and your game improves as you learn how to use it to your best advantage.

What does it take to improve an existing planning system or implement a new hoshin-based system? Master Planning or any other variety of hoshin isn’t an off-the-shelf system. It is flexible and will lend itself to tailoring to fit your organization. The first step in planning (either to improve any current process or create and install a new one) is to map and assess the existing process and practices. Once you accomplish that—and set specific objectives for the improved or new planning process — the next step is process design.

Hoshin-based processes don’t require more outside guidance than other processes, but first-cycle facilitation by an experienced professional and the simultaneous development of internal facilitators is recommended.

A hoshin-based Master Plan will create change

By focusing the organization on an overarching goal and aligning the efforts of volunteers and staff alike to achieve the specific measures built in at all levels of the plan, you can create a breakthrough for your organization.

What truly distinguishes a hoshin-based planning and management system from conventional strategic planning is how hoshin principles integrate planning throughout all aspects of the organization.