Hoshin Kanri – Strategy Deployment

Hoshin Kanri or in English, Strategy Deployment, can be better understood as its translation is broken down…

  • Ho – Direction
  • Shin – Compass
  • Kan – Control
  • Ri – Reason or logic

Hoshin Kanri is a practice of steering an organization and supporting it’s continuous improvement efforts.  Hoshin Kanri involves setting strategic goals, a vision, and tactics to achieve the goals and vision at all levels in an organization.  It also encompasses a reflection on current performance.  Think of it like this – Michigan Tech sets overall vision targets (the Strategic Plan).  At each level moving downward, people participate in the strategy deployment process by aligning their units and activities to meet the overall strategic goals.  Hosin Kanri is a means for keeping actions, activities and improvements at all levels, in line with the University’s strategic goals.

Strategy Deployment A3s are a Lean tool; A3 referring to an 11” x 17” piece of paper.   A3 is a storytelling approach that helps organize the thinking and development of the University’s Strategy Deployment. At Michigan Tech, the department of Auxiliary Services has started using Strategy Deployment A3s to align their activities and tactics.  Check it out below.  

Hansei “Reflection”

In Japanese culture, Hansei, is a personal and continual exercise of identifying problems in oneself and creating plans to ensure they do not reoccur.  Heavily practiced at Toyota, even if a project is successful, a hansei-kai (reflection meeting) still occurs  to review what went wrong.  Employees are reminded that “no problem is a problem,” and that they haven’t objectivly evaluated their work to find areas for improvement.  You might think this this would be difficult to endure – constant critiquing of work, searching for problems, negative feedback.  However, in Japan, this is embedded in their kaizen (continuous improvement) culture. 

Hansei typically has three elements:

  • Individual recognition of a problem – a gap between expectations and achievement
  • Individual responsibility for the problem and deep regret
  • The individual commits and makes a plan to improve

What are your thoughts about this concept?  Have you or do you practice Hansei?  What would it take to begin this practice within your work?

In my quest for more information for this blog post, I found a lot of information all summarizing this very concept.  In my search however, I was lucky to stumble upon a story about a personal experience with Hansei – after reading this post, it clicked.  Read it here.   At Toyota, hansei-kai are conducted at project milestones and at project completions, but this article reminds that it is also very well a part of their culture.

FMCS Grant Update

Things have been heating up with the work for the grant project (goal: to expand the use of Lean Principles across campus, strengthen labor/mgmt relationships). The committee is developing two training programs that will be taught by an an external consultant. We will be looking for all levels of employees to apply for the training programs. Here are descriptions of them:

This cohort is designed to be half represented (union) employees and half non-represented employees. This group will develop a practiced understanding of what makes a Lean Organization, the Key Principles of Lean, and various tools and concepts. They will understand their role in improvement events, and will practice their skills by facilitating on-campus improvement events after the training.

This training is for non-represented staff that are positioned in their department or work areas to plan and implement a lean transformation. The training will give them a working knowledge to become a Lean practitioner and hands on experience applying Lean problem solving methods.

Stay tuned for details on a series of information sessions to learn more about these opportunities.


By: Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

In order to solve problems and make improvements, we need to encourage ourselves and people who are involved in a process to question it.

“This is my process, and it doesn’t work as well as I think it should.  Why?“

By asking “Why?” you can identify problems and their root cause allowing you to work towards making the right improvement.  One simple method for solving problems is just that—asking “Why?”  Again and again and again until you get to that root cause.  To learn more about the 5 Whys technique, click here.

A Personal Experience with the Four Step Problem Solving Process

By Allie Olano, Student Process Improvement coordinator

When I entered my first Kaizen event I was very overwhelmed.  I was a Student Manager at the time and our Kaizen was focusing on the efficiency and flow of student workers during our busy times in the Residential Dining Halls.  The facilitator walked us through the four step problem solving process, which was something I had never heard before. 

We started going through all the steps and I was able to participate and give my perspective on things.  We were able to brainstorm and formulate countermeasures that would later be implemented to help solve our problem.

After the Kaizen was over, it really got me thinking about my job and how I could apply this process to day-to-day tasks that often have problems.  I took the task of our substitution-card process and through the problem solving process was able to come to the conclusion that the root cause was actually overscheduling due to the process I was using.  My student workers were signing up for more hours than what they wanted, and I was scheduling them based on those hours not knowing it was too much.  In turn this lead to more sub cards being posted and the sub cards not being filled.  To solve the problem I rescheduled my workers to where it was more manageable with their class schedule and I also hired a couple more students that just filled sub cards.

I found that going through the process is very beneficial because you are able to reveal the true cause of your problem and you are able to find a solution to solve the problem.  I encourage you to contact a facilitator if you a have problem and would like to work through it using the problem solving process.

Other Lean Universities

Hello out there!  Is there anyone else in higher education administration practicing Lean principles?  Why yes, yes there is!   Below are some links to other Universities who practice Lean.  It is great to see what’s out there and get ideas for our Lean journey.

University of St. Andrews appears well established on their journey.  Check out the pocket guide on their main page, it is full of great information.  I really like their “Ideas” page too.

University of Washington Tacoma‘s Organizational Effectiveness Program uses Lean to support it’s services (see right hand navigation bar).  They provide coaching and facilitation and have packaged training programs that departments can request for their staff. 

University of Iowa’s Workplace Consultation group has a University of Iowa Lean program that started in 2006.  They are also using kaizen events to make improvements.

Green in Lean

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Lean is a method of continuous improvement that strives for perfection by eliminating waste and creating more value for the customer.  Therefore, it is only logical that Lean thinking can go hand-in-hand with “green” thinking!

There are many different examples of how Lean principles and tools could be used to reduce waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

A few ways that Lean thinking could be used to reduce waste and benefit the environment at the same time include:

  • Reducing the amount of paperwork required in a process so that the papers used are only value-added and no unnecessary or duplicated work is occurring,
  • Removing non-value added steps in a process so that less energy needs to be used to create the final product,
  • Using by-products or leftovers of a process to make another useful product, and
  • Using minimal packaging for a product.

Do you have a process that you could make more “green” using Lean methodology?

$55,006 grant from FMCS!

Things have been busy, October came and went in a blur.  October was the first month of an 18 month grant cycle for a $55,006 grant received from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Labor-Management Cooperation Grant Program.

The grant will support the Continuous Improvement Labor-Management Advisory Committee; an 11 member committee, composed of six “management” staff and five union staff (all three of Michigan Tech’s unions represented).  The committee  was put together to further develop the Continuous Improvement using Lean Principles Program as a method to improve labor-management relationships and increase staff participation in enhancing work environments. 

Goals of this project include:

  1. Develop a Continuous Improvement/Lean Facilitators’ Training Program to train new facilitators and provide continued education to current facilitators.
  2. Recruit and train a cohort of 10-15 new campus facilitators, consisting of at least 50 percent unionized staff members.
  3. Develop an outreach and training program to introduce supervisors and management to the Lean model of continuous improvement and how it can enhance work processes and labor-management relations.
  4. Provide training to Michigan Tech employees who are key to managing and expanding the Lean continuous improvement programming developed as part of the Project.
  5. Sharing Michigan Tech’s model at a regional and national level via publications and presentations at key conferences, meetings, and workshops.

It is an exciting time period for Michigan Tech’s Lean Journey, the next 17 months will be busy yet rewarding.

Daily Team Meetings

Daily team meetings are short 5-10 minute meetings that happen each day for a work unit, area or department.  They are quick, to the point meetings, used to bring forth challenges, roadblocks and safety concerns in semi-real time.  At meetings and immediate response of coordinated effort can be made to tackle such challenges and problems. 

Common Characteristics of Daily team Meetings

  • Standing meetings (keeps topics quick and to the point)
  • All members participate, some methods include: round robin, last to arrive speaks first, pass a token around
  • Occurs at the same spot each day, usually at the gemba (where the work is done)
  • Agenda: what happened yesterday (problems?), todays hot topics, areas for improvement
  • Begin and end on time – even if someone is late

This is a picture from this morning’s Wads Bakery daily team meeting.  There were no problems for the day, the hot topic was a new type of sugar cookie graphic that was being used to display the Rozsa logo for cookies that will be sold at the Rozsa Center’s performance of Momix: Botanica this weekend.

You’re Invited: Begin your Lean Journey

Every few months a presentation is made to introduce Lean concepts, talk about Michigan Tech’s Lean journey, and provide information about how to become involved to faculty, staff and students.  The next presentation is set to be held on Tuesday, September 27th at 2 PM.  It is an open presentation, all are welcome to attend.  However, seating is limited so please email me, wmdavis@mtu.edu, to be added to the official invite.