By Jon Miller | Post Date: July 20, 2009 11:37 PM | Comments: 4
One of the people I most respect as a business leader often repeats the phrase "go slow to go fast". There is a nearly identical Toyota way principle which states that slow and deliberate planning will speed up execution of that plan greatly. The reverse is also true. Quick and shallow planning leads to poor execution with many delays and rework, and this is too often the case. Of course companies can have quick planning and a great culture of execution but this has a higher cost both in terms of effort and the organizational learning that fails to happen as a result of curtailed feedback to the next cycle of planning.
By faithfully following the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) whether in problem solving or business planning, we can develop an organization that improves rapidly, that is self-correcting and that is sustainable. When PDCA is not practiced at the highest levels of the company, the realm of strategy and long-term planning, even excellent companies face decline or the inability to respond quickly to shifting conditions. One major element in the recipe for Toyota's success may be the thorough practice of PDCA, both explicitly and implicitly. For the most part the leadership has gone through years of hands-on training and mentoring in the use of PDCA as a thought process and management method.
We could say that to have effective execution all we need to do is adopt PDCA and teach it to everyone. However this is much easier said than done. This requires much practical education and learning by doing, starting at the leadership level. The ideal way to do this is to adopt policy deployment (hoshin kanri) as a management practice. Using hoshin as a framework for implementing lean manufacturing or lean healthcare can also be a great way to test the limits of management commitment, the validity of the goals of the implementation and to create a regular review process for the implementation. But sadly since it is a strategy planning deployment method and only indirectly delivers business results, too many times leaders skip this step and go directly into implementing what may be hastily laid plans.
Even without calling what you are diong policy deployment or without adopting a particular hoshin kanri conventions for documenting and reporting on progress against plans, we can practice more effective execution of our plans. We simply need to demonstrate the habits that get us the results we want. Here are a just three "hoshin habits" you can begin with today:
Align vectors. Develop the habit of asking, "How does this change align or support our top level goals (policy)?" Do this even when it is obvious to test others to whom it may not be obvious. It becomes a teaching opportunity. Whenever you find a gap, challenge the team to find a focus or target that is more suitable. For effective execution, link the action to the goal of the team or department at a minimum. This question is similar to the "5 why" questioning of root cause analysis and helps build our critical thinking. When the link cannot be found or when it seems that there is no alignment between execution and the plan, it may be that the project is not mission critical to the strategy. Another possibility is that your metrics don't accurately reflect the importance of the action. Yet another possibility is a poor strategy, in which case, turn the PDCA cycle yet again as you have learned something.
Build consensus. Most often this simply means listening, clarifying and occasionally modifying the plan to address genuine concerns or risks that others have identified, and which you may have missed. This may take time but often speeds up the implementation even in the face of challenges. This may seem like step one but in fact this is an ongoing process. It is not possible to develop consensus with 100% of the stakeholders at the beginning. As the plan changes, so do the stakeholders, their relative influence, their level of support for the change and its importance to them. It is much easier to build consensus after you have aligned people mentally and by focusing on a vital few projects, markets or themes.
CAP it. The PDCA cycle may start with the identification of a problem, the setting of targets, analysis of root causes and identification of countermeasures (Plan) but in day-to-day reality when we are deep in the Do this looks more like CAP - Check, Act, Plan. We need to install and test a strong "check and act" process that returns you to Plan enlightened, if a little beat up by facing reality up close. Policy deployment is often shortened "PD" but I tell people "The 'PD' doesn't stand for 'Plan Do!'". Checks should be small and frequent, in person and as "go see" activities whenever possible. The Act or adjust step should be based on the facts of the observed (checked) results and process.
It takes faith and commitment to "go slow to go fast" especially when there are pressures each day to speed up response time, improve quality and safety, while reducing cost. The demand for results is not slowing down. That is all the more reason to pause and check whether in all of our frantic activity there might not be some things we can stop doing, realign our vectors and strengthen consensus. We need to go slow, yet with urgency. Plans change, and when they do it is handy to have hoshin habits and a constancy of purpose towards an effective execution of our adjusted plans.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.