Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's not Lean, it's Agile at scale... the Hoshin Kanri way

These are some details from my last talk at Lean Kanban France 2014 in Paris. 

Nowadays, scaling Agile is in the pipe of Agile Change Agents and some interesting essays are emerging like SAFe, LESS, DaD, etc…
In other hand, discussions on Kanban are climbing in the organization matrix and try to address both Portfolio and Governance.
Beyond Budgeting explains that we need to have Leadership actions and Management processes linked to those Leadership actions.

Purpose of this session is to ask the audience: can be Hoshin Kanri seen as a glue binding all these together in an agile sense making manner? 

When you take a look at Hoshin Kanri, first you see strategy and then management. All the "continuous improvement" part isn't really caught. Unfortunately, it's the major part of the approach and our link to agility.

Hoshin Kanri comes with Total Quality Management. Japanese Total Quality Management (TQM) is founded on the principles that each individual in an organisation is recognized as being the expert in their own job, that humans seek recognition and want to be involved and are motivated by a desire to be recognized as a contributor to the success of the community to which they belong.

David Hutchins explains.

 There are several translations of Hoshin Kanri. This is my favorite!
Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) is the driver of these principles.

Our objective is to build a company as a flow, a company as a pull system.
Here is the junction between Lean Thinking, Kaizen and Agile. An organization as a pull system changes the traditional paradigm of the company organizational iceberg in a system thinking approach.

Like John Seddon explained at the 1st Lean Kanban Conference in Antwerp (2010): Middle Office is a Buffer, Back Office is a cost centre, everybody should be at the Front.

Exemples by  Mark Offenberger

ref. Mark Offenberger
Summarizing the strategy on one piece of paper.
What are my goals? How will I measure myself?
What did we do last year? What went right? What went wrong?
What is this year's strategy?
What's the plan?
What could go wrong? Any worries?

A3 Strategy principles:
The point is not the piece of paper. The point is……
  • Make the strategy simple
  • Focus on the important few
  • Tell a compelling story
  • PDCA
  • Make the review process simple and obvious

What is important
Effective discussion on A3s to guarantee alignment between objectives across the organization
Develop communication at all level
Reinforce and consolidate knowledge of the challenges and objectives of others
Requires trust and respect
Alignment is all about
Consensus: find a common way to reach all our objectives
Ask the question upfront instead of waiting for the clash in the execution phase.

Lean Institute

 Purpose of Agile is a consolidated view of the 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto.

Now if you use the simple « process » of Hoshin Kanri: True North, A3 Thinking, Catchball and Kaizen (i.e. Continuous Improvement) to support the implementation of Beyond Budgeting principles and you neither scandinavian nor japanese (culture plays a lot!), and you want to have enough diversity (i.e. variability) to support emerging innovation, then I guess we don’t need to reinvent something new. We just need to inspect-and-adapt the tools we got.

My objective for this talk is to have a discussion like in Agile Conferences. So, I'm very thankful to Matt Philip, Don Reinertsen, Karl Scotland, Yuval Yeret for their inputs and questioning. On my side, I came with the question: "does this make a sense?" and I guess that I can make a second run to challenge my vision.
Meanwhile for the conference is my catchball!

One of my favorite quotes. HR Director meeting a workers for his Retirement-interview. After a lot questioning, the HR Director asked the worker about an idea for improvement. The worker said: "you paid me 40 years for my hands and you could have my brain for free!".



  1. Hi Pierre - excellent overview on Hoshin Kanri. I wish I came across your article earlier to help me better explain this to others!
    Let me know when you are next in London, I'd be keen to share our experiences.

  2. Hi Pierre, I am just checking this post. An excellent information on Hoshin Kanri. Though your post is dated, it is still relevant and very useful.

    with regards