Separating the Known’s from the Unknowns in an organisation

The Unknown

As we know, there are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know, there are known unknowns.
That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
– Donald Rumsfeld (2002)

At first reading this may seem like a crazy statement, but when you look closely at it and think about it, this is the reality for many businesses.

Businesses and many business leaders get bogged down in the day-to-day operations. Often so much that they cannot see the wood from the trees. Many never really raise their heads and look above the parapet and ask the simple question, “Are we maximising our true potential, are we running this business in the best way possible?” Put simply is there a better way?”

Lean methodology is well known for its ability to remove waste from physical processes., in the short to medium term, but used strategically, Lean methodology is much more than that.

Deployed correctly across an organisation, it has the ability to challenge the norm, shift the focus and thinking of a organisation.

Culturally, many businesses operate with some level of silo mentality, which stifles creativity. People only see what they need to see. In short, teams operate with ‘known knowns’ and ‘things we know we know’.

Using tool sets like Hoshin Kanri, organisations can start to understand how they are really performing as a whole and what is really important to drive the business forwards.

So, what exactly is Hoshin Kanri? Interpreted from Japanese, Hoshin in English means “setting a direction or objective”. Kanri translates as “management”. So Hoshin Kanri can be loosely translated as “the management of direction and objectives”. This in turn sets a platform for Strategic business improvement.

In a typical organisation, quite often the process of setting top-level business objectives and communicating them clearly across the entire business is poorly done, and more often than not is over-complex.

Within your organisation, ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Is everyone pulling in the same direction?
  • Are all managers focused on the exactly the same goals?
  • Is every task that people are undertaking completely necessary?
  • Are there projects or tasks being worked on that do not contribute to the top-level objectives?

The Hoshin Kanri process helps unravel these points and once this is done, clear directions can be communicated and simple, clear directions can be set. Teams and departments can then be challenged to work collectively and silo thinking can start to be broken down. Clear, simple, common performance metrics and targets can be set and measured.

Once this has been done the teams and departments can be asked to process map cross-functionally and the question can be asked: “Is this process really achieving the desired result in the most cost-effective way?” Normally the answer is no.

In effect at this point, the organisation is ‘learning to see’ and process maps can be used as a common communication tool.

The more common Lean tools can then be deployed, to identify waste and look at the ‘known unknowns’. These can be studied and improvement activities can be put into place.

Over time the whole organisation will change the way it looks at the way it does business. A cultural shift will start to take place. People will start to challenge the norm. This is what Lean is really all about – not just looking for waste.

As Donald Rumsfeld said, “We know there are some things we do not know”.

Hoshin Kanri, deployed correctly will help look for these opportunities that exist and start to understand them. In effect, getting your organisation ‘learning to see’ what its true potential is.

If you would like LMAC to guide you though the process, why not get in touch?

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