Why Hoshin planning is not only for startups

When it comes to talk about Hoshin Kanri, many people think it’s only a lean methodology for start-ups…

Ummmm… wrong…. this is not true.

The thing is:

  • Start-ups want to validate a business model.
  • Companies want to be more profitable.

So… both need to have their teams working aligned with strategy to achieve strategic goals and…

… here is when Hoshin planning does the magic!

But, let’s start from the beginning…

What is Hoshin Kanri?

Hoshin Kanri is a planning methodology that aligns the strategic company goals with the work performed by the whole team.

This methodology was created by Yoji Akao in the early sixties in Japan, so it existed 40 years before start-ups even appeared.

You can read our previous post entitled “What is Hoshin Kanri” to get more information about this methodology.

Why is it so cool?

Using Hoshin planning you’ll be sure that everybody is working in the same direction at the same time. It sounds good doesn’t it?

The reason is that with Hoshin Kanri, the strategic goals of a company drive real progress and actions at every level in the organization. And the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication gets eliminated.

I’m sure you’ve started loving it. But you’ll be totally in love at the end of the post. Keep on reading!


Hoshinplan banner

Hoshin in start-ups

Although Hoshin planning was not created especially for start-ups, it’s a lean methodology that has the properties to be very useful in the early stages of a company.

Why? Because a start-up needs to have the whole team focused on a one main goal: validate a business model and pivot fast when is required.

If you are building a company and want to have everybody doing the right stuff, build a Hoshinplan.com and share it with the team weekly. Albert Feliu. CEO Appszoom

So, if you want to succeed with your start-up I suggest you to start using Hoshins!

Hoshin planning in companies

As I’ve mentioned, Hoshin planning is the best way to have your whole time aligned and focused on your strategic goals, but it also has other benefits….

Let us take a look at its principles:

  1. The strategic plan becomes focused on the things that really matter, on the main goals of your company.
  2. Catchball: in Hoshin planning, workable plans are built through consensus between all the people involved in the project.
  3. Progress is measured with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
  4. Regular meetings are the key to keep progress on track and iterate if required.

Unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency results. Alfred Chandler.

Be Hoshin my friend

Bruce Lee Hoshin Kanri

So whether you have a start-up or a company with a validated business model, Hoshin planning is the best way to be sure that all your staff is working in the same way, with the same goal.

Hoshin planning will drive your company and your internal organization to the next level.

So, do not waste your time and efforts, be Hoshin my friend 😉


P.s. If you liked this post, then two things come next:

1) Leave a comment and tell me if you are planning to use Hoshin Kanri. We love comments!
2) Tell a friend, your Twitter followers, or your Facebook network about this blog 🙂

Doctoralia and HoshinPlan

At Hoshinplan, we like to know how our customers are doing with our tool. For this reason, today we released this blog section where we will put together some of their opinions.

To start, we want to talk to you about Doctoralia, the world-leading platform that connects health professionals with patients.

On its website it reads that “Doctoralia offers services that bring health to users, providing them with a space where they can ask questions, post reviews and find the best health professionals to suits their needs“. We can attest this to be true, and proof of this is its enormous success.

A few days ago, we asked Albert Armengol, CEO of Doctoralia, to speak to us about his experience with Hoshinplan, and this article you are reading right now is the result.

Thank you for your time, Albert!

Chatting with Albert Armengol

How long have you been using Hoshinplan?

We started to use Hoshinplan to implement Hoshin planning at Doctoralia about a year ago, more or less.

What challenge/problem did you want to address with Hoshinplan?

We started Doctoralia with a group of super motivated people, and for years things had been going fairly well, so the company began to grow.

About a year ago we became a team of more than 40 people, and with the company reaching that size, I began to feel that if we didn’t change something we would lose that strength with which we started.

Aligning the efforts between Departments became increasingly difficult, and people weren’t really chasing the company’s goals with the same energy as when we were just 10 people.

Things were good, but we thought it was time to step it up a notch and to be ahead of the curve.

What is the best functionality the program offers you?

For me, the fact that all team members always have information at their fingertips is key. There are two questions that I would like anyone on my team to be able to answer if you stopped them in the hallway:

• What are the goals of the company?
• What you are doing right now to help in achieving them?

Hoshinplan makes that happen. It also allows the management team to have a global vision of the evolution of the company in just one website.

Would you recommend Hoshinplan to other companies?

Of course, in fact I recommend it all the time! 😀 It is a fantastic tool to align the team, to give autonomy to people and still keep us going in the same direction.

What would you say about Hoshinplan?

That at Doctoralia there is a before and after following the implementation of Hoshin Kanri, and that Hoshinplan is the best tool to work with this methodology.


Albert, thank you very much for your kindness and congratulations on the success of Doctoralia 🙂

We are very proud to have customers as Doctoralia, and to be able contribute our grain of sand in helping them build a better business.

If you haven’t tried Hoshinplan yet, create an account and try it 30 days for free.

What is Hoshin Kanri?

It’s possible that you’ve heard about Hoshin Kanri as one of the lean methodologies used in start-ups and successful companies but…..

… you don’t know how to use Hoshin Kanri in your business… and you are not 100% sure if it can be helpful….

ok, that’s fine, you need more information so…. let’s learn more about Hoshin Kanri and how to implement it.

I’m sure that you’ll love it as much as we do.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

What is Hoshin Kanri?

Hoshin Kanri is a Japanese strategic planning process that aligns 3 different things:

  • The strategic company goals.
  • The plans of middle management.
  • The work performed by the whole team.

With one main goal: to ensure that every single person in the company is working in the same direction at the same time.

By using Hoshin Kanri:

  • The strategic goals of a company drive real progress and actions at every level in the organization.
  • The waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication gets eliminated.

Hoshin Kanri creates a natural flow of information that runs through the entire company: goals, results and KPIs travel from the top down and from the bottom up.

How to implement Hoshin Kanri in my company

Well, if you are still reading, you’re on the right path 😉

But let’s see how you can implement Hoshin Kanri in your company step by step:

Step One – Create a Strategic Plan

The first step is to build the strategic plan. Here are some tips to create one:

  • Five goals, not more: Focus on a small number of goals (five or less) as that makes it far more likely that you will achieve them successfully, rather than waste your resources and energy on dozens … if everything is important; nothing is important.
  • Every goal must have an owner: Every goal should have an owner/coach with the skills and authority to monitor the goal until the end.
  • Revolution & Evolution: goals can be evolutionary (incremental goals achieved with continuous improvement) or revolutionary. Both are important for improvements.
  • Effectiveness First: strategic goals must be effective: do the right things to bring the company to the next level.
  • Right KPIs: Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are important for tracking your progress so… choose them carefully!
  • Consensus: consensus between the different actors is very useful because it creates a sense of shared responsibility for the plan and significantly more buy-in from everybody. It also provides another perspective and feedback that helps to build more informed strategies.

Building your lean canvas can be very helpful for building your strategic plan. See our post about “How to create my lean canvas step by step” and learn how to do it.

Step Two – Develop Tactics


Tactics must be developed to achieve the goals defined in the strategic plan. It is at this point that the process of “catchballs” begins.

A process of back and forth exchange between all management members to be sure that:

  • The strategy and goals are well understood.
  • There is great alignment between tactics and strategy.
  • The KPIs are the correct ones.
  • The purpose for the catchballs is to build consensus around the best approach for achieving an objective.
  • Catchballs help develop the cascade of subordinate objectives because it’s a back and forth exchange of information between the people who will be most influential in achieving the goals, and the people who are responsible for achieving them.

    Using catchballs is also helpful to get a higher degree of commitment for achieving the objectives.

Step three – Communicate the plan

If you want to achieve your goals, everyone involved must be informed, particularly the people who will be implementing the plan and working on its various objectives and tactics. They have the key to the success of the plan.

Yes, you may think this is obvious but only a few companies spend the time and effort to do it properly. Communication must be a continuing activity to keep everyone on track and involved in any changes to the plan.

A Flat Management Structure is better for Hoshin: the fewer levels there are, the easier it is to cascade goals down. And the fewer opportunities there are for strategy to be lost in several hierarchical levels.

Step Four – Take Action

This is the step where goals and plans are transformed into results, where real action occurs.

Therefore, managers should stay closely connected to the activities and catchballs between the people involved to ensure that activities are aligned with tactics and strategy.


Hoshinplan banner


Step five – Review and Adjust

As part of regular management meetings, you must monitor the plan and be prepared to act when the plan starts deviating from the path.

Progress should be tracked continuously at regular meetings (monthly for example). These progress checkpoints provide an opportunity for tactics adjustment and their associated operational actions.

That’s the way to be sure that the planned activities are occurring as described, to identify cause analysis and take corrective actions when necessary.

These 5 steps seem simple and a thing of common sense, but they make the difference between success and failure in Hoshin planning. Do not taken them for granted because it will be a big mistake.

Why Hoshin planning

People perform best when they have a purpose: when they understand what to do and why it’s so important.

Hoshin planning can help to create that purpose, providing focus and drive your team towards specific goals. It is the best way to create a shared vision of the strategic plan (the destination) and the associated tactics to get there.

Make sure as many team members as possible have the opportunity to understand why the strategic goals are so important and how the tactics and operational details can help to achieve them.

Hoshin Kanri is an extremely valuable lean tool and your company can benefit from its principles:

  • Strategic planning focused on the things that really matter.
  • Catchball: building workable plans through consensus.
  • Measuring progress with KPIs that will drive the desired behaviour.
  • Using regular meetings to keep progress on track.

So…. what are you waiting for? Are you ready? Start your free trial in Hoshinplan and discover the best tool for lean your company.

P.s. If you liked this post, then two things come next:

1) Leave a comment and tell me if you are planning to use Hoshin Kanri. We love comments!
2) Tell a friend, your Twitter followers, or your Facebook network about this blog 🙂

How Darth Vader could have conquered the galaxy with Hoshinplan

This morning I was reading an article on Forbes entitled “Five Leadership Mistakes Of The Galactic Empire” by Alex Knapp.

Even though the article has some criticism from the Star Wars fanatics for not being strict enough with the original plot I thought it taught a couple of good lessons about bad leadership. And not only that, I realized that the Hoshin Kanri method and the Lean philosophy can actually be used to overcome them.

Let’s review how to overcome each mistake.

Mistake #1: Building an organization around particular people, rather than institutions

Knapp states that the biggest mistake of the Galactic Empire was to focus in preserving all the power for the Emperor and a few of his chosen lackeys. They disband the Galactic Senate in A New Hope and in the Return of the Jedi the Emperor’s only advisor is Darth Vader.

Knapp also highlights the complete distrust he has in his organization, as the only successor he considers is Luke Skywalker, a key individual from a rival organization.

Solution #1: Have a transparent plan 

In the Hoshin Kanri methodology one of the key aspects is transparency. Everyone should know the plan, not only the top management. In the Galactic Empire example losing a few key individuals such as the Emperor and Darth Vader was enough to (almost) eliminate the entire organization as no one else was able to continue their plans.

The solution is to move from telling your teams what to do to explaining the whole strategy and making sure that everyone sees how their work contributes to the achievement of the overall goals.

At Hoshinplan you can create an overall plan, as well as some children plans linked to that. In this way, no matter how big your organization is, everyone can trace back from their specific tasks to the overall long-term objectives for the company.

This strong alignment of everyone’s work to the whole strategy and the complete transparency of the overall plan minimizes the risk of failing due to losing an individual.

Mistake #2: Depriving people of the chance to have a stake in the organization

Forbes’ article continues by noting that by consolidating his power, the Emperor also deprived his employees from a key motivation: the feeling of contributing to the success of the organization.

They removed the idea of democracy by disbanding the Galactic Senate. And they also eliminated any guiding ideology by forbidding any reference to the Force.

Solution #2: Involve everyone in the creation of the plan

Not only the plan should be completely transparent, but everyone should also have contributed to it. In the Hoshin Kanri methodology, the process starts with a strategic plan crafted by the top management (e.g. conquer the galaxy by building a Death Star), but then all the levels of the organization contribute to the plan in a process called “catch-ball”.

This is a back and forth exchange with top management to make sure that everyone understands the strategy and goals, that the plans of every department have a strong alignment with the global strategy, that the indicators are appropriate and at the end, that everyone believe that their plans are achievable.

Having everyone involved in the plan creation and ensuring that all the objectives are agreed upon between the managers, and the people that will work to achieve them, increases people’s motivation and commitment to the plan; therefore, maximizing the chances of success.

Hoshinplan banner

Mistake #3: Having no tolerance for failure

Not once does Darth Vader use the Force to choke to death some of his employees when they make mistakes. I have to admit some of these mistakes are huge ones.

At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, imperials try to eliminate the rebels in that have concentrated in planet Hoth. Admiral Ozzel brings the Imperial Fleet too close to Hoth, allowing the Rebel Alliance to detect them; thus, quickly beginning its defense, frustrating the attack.

Even though this is clearly a big mistake, by choking him, Vader kills innovation, participation and improvisation. No one would dare to think big and take risks if the result in case of not achieving the objectives is being choked to death.

Solution #3: Objectives should be a guide not a performance management tool

Hoshin is a Japanese word that can be decomposed in two words: Ho and Shin. The first word, Ho, means direction and Shin means needle. Thus, Hoshin is a needle to point the direction or a compass. It is not meant to be used to judge, praise or punish individuals, but to make sure all the efforts in the organization are aligned.

If in the above mentioned “catch-ball” process, where the indicators’ target values are to be agreed between the managers and the employees, the result of not achieving them would be to be choked to death (or to be paid less); the employees would never agree to have ambitious goals; thus, leading to lower performance.

Target values are to be used to learn. If a target value is not reached, it means one or more of the hypotheses used to set that value were wrong, and they should be reviewed, leading to a higher understanding of the current market situation and the company’s capabilities.

Mistake #4: Focusing all of the organization’s efforts into a single goal and failing to consider alternatives

Again citing Knapp’s article: “When it came to the success of the Galactic Empire, the Emperor had one single idea that he was absolutely obsessed with: building the Death Star. […] This single minded obsession with one way to succeed is something that undermined not only the Galactic Empire, but also many other organizations throughout history”.

Solution #4: Divide your plan into areas, objectives and indicators

A Hoshin plan is divided into strategic areas, making it easier to cover all the aspects of your strategy. Even though building a Death Star might be a key objective one should not forget about all the other aspects of the organization.

The Emperor and Vader could have created an area for “Planet Destruction” or “Fear” where the task of building a Death Star would have been top priority but they could have also created areas for “Team morale”, “Intelligence” or “Innovation”.

By covering different strategic areas, Hoshin avoids the temptation of obsessing with a single task and neglecting some other aspects that may be paramount for your success.

Mistake #5: Failing to learn from mistakes

The Galactic Empire devoted a huge amount of time, money and effort to build the first Death Star, only to have it destroyed by the rebels just after its first mission – blowing up Alderaan.

After such an enormous failure the only response of the top management of the Empire was to start building a newer, bigger Death Star to be the new target of the Rebel Alliance. In the second case, the Death Star wasn’t even completed before the Rebels managed to destroy it again.

Another example according to the Forbes article: As we mentioned in Mistake #3, Vader Force choked Admiral Ozzel, in the hope that this punishment would serve as an example for the rest of his employees, leading to a performance improvement.

Soon after that, captain Needa failed to capture the Millennium Falcon and Vader Force choked him again. It’s unclear that this fear-based method had a positive effect on employees’ performance yet Vader continued to use it anyways.

Solution #5: Make continuous improvement a habit

Another key aspect of the Hoshin Kanri is continuous improvement. Progress should be tracked continuously and reviewed on a regular basis (e.g. monthly).

These checkpoints should be used to adjust the plan. In a Hoshinplan you could create new tasks that were previously undetected or delete tasks that no longer make sense.

Additionally, you should also review the indicators’ target values to incorporate new learnings as discussed in Solution #3. At my former company (InfoJobs), we presented the progress to the whole company once a month and made a deep review of the plan each quarter.

A Hoshin plan should be a live plan adapting to the circumstances. When the first Death Star was destroyed, the plan should be have been reviewed, alternatives should have been considered and maybe a better solution would have come up rather than building another even bigger Death Star.

Luckily for the Rebel Alliance nor the Emperor or Vader discovered Hoshin Kanri. 🙂

Want to conquer the galaxy? Start using Hoshinplan today.

Answer these 3 questions and set the long-term goals for your company

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” Seneca

Strategy is all about vision and knowing which port one is sailing. But sometimes it’s hard to identify the key strategic goals that will guide our company to success.

Here are the 3 key questions we have always asked ourselves when setting the long-term goals of our company.

What will you see in three/five/ten years time once your company is successful?

Imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have. And we can use it to identify our vision of success. Take some time, relax and imagine: how will success look like?

If you find it hard to make it concrete, do the following exercise: Imagine you are reading the newspaper and you find an article highlighting how successful your company has been. What will you read? Now, go and write this article.

Hoshinplan banner


What is our Unique Value Proposition (UVP) today, how will we improve it in the future and how can we properly deliver it along the way?

Every time we have discussed the answer to this question we have realised:

  1. We don’t have a clear UVP and this is why the business is not succeeding… or…
  2. We have it, but our tactics are not that clear when building everything around this UVP.

If you have used Ash Maurya‘s Leancanvas or Alex Ostwerwalder‘s Business Model Canvas you already have discussed about your UVP.

If not, you should write down a UVP that states what your product or service is, for whom and why is it better than competitors’.

You might start trying to answer this innocent question and end up drawing a competitors’ landscape analysis. If so, maybe it means you had to. 🙂

What motivates you and your organisation most when thinking about the future of your company?

Yes, we know, maybe this is not the kind of question you were thinking of when setting your long-term goals, right? But still, this is probably one of the most important questions to answer.

As a leader, do you want to invest your energy and your team’s efforts on something that is not interesting enough?

If you have done right, probably you already have good answers to the previous two questions, but still you need to focus to set an even clearer direction.

Use motivation to chose the most interesting piece of your business and to discard the rest.

At the end of this exercise you should have a maximum of three long-term goals to communicate to your team.


P.s. If you liked this post, then two things come next:

1) Leave a comment and tell me how do you set your long term goals. We love comments!
2) Tell a friend, your Twitter followers, or your Facebook network about this blog 🙂