MarmiteBusiness terminology – it’s a bit like Marmite.

You either love it or hate it!

Some people can’t wait to try out the latest Japanese sounding technique. Others are put off by foreign names, or associate them with a particular industry.

I find it always helps to use an analogy. This takes the focus off the terminology and shows the principles in a different context, separating them from one sector or style of business.

This is how I explain Hoshin Kanri, or Policy Deployment, to people in any sector.

Set the scene:

We are going on a group hike. We have a map and we are starting at position X.

I actually mark “X” on a real map in front of us.

Map 1


Ask the team: “Do we just set off and hope for a nice ramble? Would we have a satisfying day out?”

Hopefully they answer along the lines of no. And they may elaborate, if not you can.

It’s not an ideal situation, some of the group may want to head off in a different direction, we may lose a few and most will probably lose interest as we wander aimlessly. At the end of the day we might well be tired but not very satisfied.

Now challenge the team: “Would it be better if we decided where we wanted to go and what time we wanted to reach our destination?” It’s especially useful if there is an incentive like refreshments to aim for.

So now on your map, mark a large “F” for the finish point and even write the finish time if you want.

Now ask the team: “Do we set off in a straight line and just hope for the best? Or what else might we give them?”

Encourage answers like:

  • Give them a map and compass so they can check they are on course.
  • Plot a safe route to follow across the terrain. A straight line isn’t always possible.
  • Make sure the route gets them to the end on time.
  • Give them a map and compass so they can plot a new course if unexpected obstacles arise, like a shut footpath or flooded river.
Map 2

Ask your team: “Would this be a better day out?”

Everyone makes it to the end point, still tired but on time for the promised refreshments. Result – everybody is more satisfied!

How did the team achieve this?  They provided a clear end point and gave everybody the tools to move in the desired direction.

Now is the time to draw the analogy with Hoshin Kanri.

The start point “X” is equivalent to our current performance results. Where we are now.

The end point “F” is the results we want to have, at a set point in the future. Where we want to be.

The map is our view of the current and future business environment, the terrain we have to navigate from X to F.

When hiking we follow a specific direction on our compass. In business our vision statement is our direction.

The detailed instructions are created by turning your vital few policies into specific plans and objectives for each layer of your business.

Checking you are on course and have not been deviated by an obstacle, is like reviewing your progress and actual performance against target.

So by using an everyday analogy we aim to demystify the business terminology and help people to see the potential benefits of applying the principles. Then you can go on and design a Policy Deployment framework that works for your own business.