Companies Struggle to Connect People to Corporate Goals

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Lean Enterprise Institute COO Mark Reich, an experienced strategic planner, says the missing link between employees and goals is a process known as Strategy Deployment.

A big topic of conversation was how to connect each individual’s work to the high-level purpose of the organization.

A recent workshop on corporate planning and execution revealed that companies of different sizes and in different industries struggle with the common problem of how to connect corporate initiatives to the work of middle and frontline people, according to Mark Reich, COO, of the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI).

“Attendees felt that the challenge of communicating corporate initiatives horizontally across their organizations – even the smaller ones – was a common problem,” Reich said after the workshop, Strategy Deployment and Alignment Through Hoshin. Reich presented it Oct. 24, 2016, at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence conference in Dallas. The 35 attendees at the sold-out session came from large and small companies in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and services. They held a variety of leadership posts, including presidents, plant managers, and continuous improvement professionals.

“They had many questions about how do site leaders, such as plant managers, connect to corporate initiatives or should they have their own. We had a lot of discussion around that, and I shared my experiences from Toyota.”

Managing on Purpose
Reich, author of the forthcoming LEI book Managing on Purpose about how to deploy corporate strategy, spent 23 years at Toyota in Japan and North America, including a post as assistant general manager of the corporate strategy division where he managed and implemented Toyota's North American strategic (or hoshin) process. Strategy Deployment, also known as hoshin planning, is a planning and execution process that aligns – both vertically and horizontally – an organization's functions and activities with strategic objectives.

Reich gave the example of a company that discovers employees have weak problem-solving skills so it makes developing such skills a high-level strategic initiative. Following discussions with senior managers and other functions, the human resource department develops a specific effort that supports the corporate goal. In this case, it may be to develop a problem-solving training structure.

This discussion process, usually using visual storyboards called A3 reports, translates strategic plans level by level while building organizational alignment around common problems. In this example, the responsibility for developing a training structure may fall to an HR manager who will then be able to see how their work connects to the company’s higher purpose.

“A big topic of conversation was how to connect each individual’s work to the high-level purpose of the organization," Reich said. “The strategy deployment process provides the means.”

Another popular workshop topic was how to communicate the business value of using hoshin to the C-suite so leaders are open to experimenting with this approach to strategy management and organizational alignment, according to co-presenter Jikku Mohan, LEI’s product and services strategy manager. “There was also a discussion about the barriers to hoshin planning, such as the unwillingness to commit to the discipline and time required to get sustainable business results,” he said.

Learn more about strategy deployment and when the workshop will be offered next:

About LEI
Lean Enterprise Institute Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA, with a mission to makes things better through lean thinking and practice. Founded in 1997 by management expert James P. Womack, PhD, LEI conducts research, teaches educational workshops, publishes books and ebooks, runs conferences, and shares practical information about lean thinking and practice through We support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Global Network, the Lean Education Academic Network, and the Center for Lean Engagement and Research in Healthcare at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, and the Healthcare Value Network. Visit LEI at for more information.

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Chet Marchwinski
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