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An Overview of Strategy Deployment

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.  I am really excited for this week’s series.  All the posts are great.  Enjoy!

Almost every company will say they have a strategy.  While they may have a great strategy, most companies miss out on deploying that strategy throughout their organization.

Strategy deployment is a key concept that most companies don’t execute well.  Typically, a communication goes out stating  the strategy of the company or it may even be communicated at a large town hall.  This is great, but it is only a single step in the strategy deployment process.

A great strategy deployment process starts at the top with clearly articulated goals for the company.  The executives involve senior management in the process.  They discuss what the goals should be across all parts of the organization and how their areas can help achieve those goals.

Once that has been agreed upon, then the senior management involves the middle management.  They discuss more detailed tactics on how to the middle manager’s area can help achieve the senior manager’s goals and objectives.  It is a two-way discussion with input and clarity from both levels.

This catchball or laddering conversation should happen level by level all the way down to the floor and then all the way back up to the executives.  This should happen a few times.  Not just once.

Here is a good graphic to try and depict the process:

strategy_deployment_flow

When done well, the benefits of this are enormous.  Everyone starts to understand the strategy and how their work is helping to achieve the vision of that strategy.

The discussion that happens during the catchball phase isn’t just between a team and their manager but also between managers that are peers.  This helps to develop alignment not only up and down the organization but also across the organization.  This alignment helps determine how to use the finite pool of people and cash to best achieve the company’s goals and objectives.

In my experience, company’s that have a great strategy deployment process end up with much better results year-to-year and can sustain those results because of the clear communication and everyone understanding the importance of their work.

Does your company use strategy deployment?  How does it work?

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Aligning Your Business

In today’s tough economic climate, it is even more important the work we do is aligned with the company’s goals and priorities.

As companies reduce headcount while still driving towards revenue growth, decisions have to be made about what are the top priorities for the company.  If you cannot strongly link your work to one of the company’s priorities then you should really question yourself and/or your manager about the validity of finishing that work.

Everyone in the company should know the priorities and should be asked to understand how their work is linked to achieving success on the priorities.

One good way to do this, is through strategy deployment.  This is process by which the priorities of the company are used to determine the priorities of the division and then those are tied to projects and/or initiatives for the current year.

In a good strategy deployment process, catchball is used to get input from the layer of management below.  This helps drive accountability and alignment throughout the organization.

If you cannot link your work to one of the projects/initiatives that is part of the strategy then you have to ask if it needs to be done.  Sometimes the answer may be ‘yes’.  An example might be updating your servers or you won’t be able to run some of your IT systems.  This may not be one of the priorities but it must be done in order to keep the business running.

It is good to capture the linkages on an A3 document and use that as your guide throughout the year.

It is amazing the power of alignment has on driving a company to achieving its top priorities.  Are you aligned?