Operations Strategy — Frequently Asked Questions

As we work with companies to better position their operations strategically, it only makes sense to take advantage of systems and processes already developed by others, and to customize and create new where appropriate.

These are brief responses to a few of the questions we are frequently asked.

Question 1:

How do we tie any operations strategy to the hundreds of decisions made daily by our employees?

The Hoshin Planning process, from the Toyota Production System and further developed by other companies, is a specific methodology for doing just that. Also called Policy Deployment or Strategy Deployment, the Hoshin Planning process specifically ties longer term breakthrough objectives to top priority near term objectives on the critical path, which are then tied to near term action items. Resources are also specifically addressed by the process.

There are other means to effectively cascade strategy, near term priorities, and daily decision-making for bidirectional consistency. The key is to create that tight link. Otherwise the strategy is on paper and the shop floor is drifting somewhere else.

Take a look at this article for a description of a similar method used to accomplish the same goal.

Question 2:

How do we keep from running into the same problem over and over again? We think we have it whipped, and then it rears its ugly head again.

Few companies are truly good at problem solving, but we can learn from those that are. As an example, if you examine Toyota closely, you will find the key to its success is unwavering commitment to neutral question-based reasoning to create, retain, and share knowledge.

And what is knowledge? It is the answer to a question. And what is a problem? It is an unanswered question — often a question we’re not even sure is the right one.

Toyota uses the A3 problem solving system. Many companies, especially automotive, rely on 8D analysis. Both are structures to approach problem solving, but either can be useless if not used properly to clearly state the problem and reach true root cause. Without the right questions, an understanding and recording of the reasoning used in developing the solution, and leveraging the structured problem solving process for maximum learning, you are quite likely going to get that déjà vu sensation that means you didn’t really solve the problem.

In fact, as supply chains extend around the world the ability to think and solve problems with your supply chain can provide the outsourcing advantage!