Strategy Deployment: Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

I remember, years ago, watching my oldest child struggle in his attempt to loosen a bolt. This was one of those all too few, brief, and shining child-rearing moments where I could easily and quickly share some trusty words of wisdom. “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.” I’m pretty sure that my son’s response was somewhere in the vicinity of, “Huh?” Not the effect that I was looking for necessarily. …Nevertheless, I’m going to try to apply the same advice, but to a different subject (totally without threaded parts). Strategy deployment (a.k.a. policy deployment, hoshin kanri, etc.). Huh? Well, specifically, I’m talking about strategy deployment x-matrices and the direction in which they should be developed…which is clockwise. Righty tighty is good. Lefty loosey, or counterclockwise, and the whole thing unwinds. Not good. wrench   We must remember that matrices are tools. They are a way to capture and communicate thinking, facilitate discussion and improvement (through practices like catchball) and, in the event of strategy deployment, aid in vertical and horizontal alignment within the organization. The standard, neck-craning, x-matrix clocks the reader typically through the following generic elements for an organization (think corporation, business group, business unit, plant, etc.), while cascading through the appropriate organizational levels:

  • 3 to 5 year breakthrough objectives, to
  • the relevant annual objectives, to
  • the relevant annual improvement priorities or strategic initiatives, to
  • the targets and means or deliverables,
  • while identifying who is responsible for the deliverables (and ultimately getting the point of impact where a person actually is required to execute)

This sequence is clockwise on the x-matrix. Clearly, it can be read clockwise or counterclockwise. But, it should only be BUILT clockwise. Righty tighty! Why is that? Well, as Taiichi Ohno is credited with saying, “Start from need.” We don’t start with targets and means (which are fancy words for countermeasures). We start with the organization’s relatively long term breakthrough objectives, which oh, by the way are guided by the business’ true north, competitive market realities, and the like. This is where the thinking starts and is preferably rigorous and guided by things like hoshin A3’s and proposal A3’s (and, where appropriate, problem A3’s). All require, at some level, the users to grasp the situation and articulate the rationale. Implicit in this is an understanding of the causal relationships. It does not facilitate “loosey” counterclockwise leaps to justify pet countermeasures by thinking up annual improvement priorities and breakthrough objectives. So, just like we don’t build an A3 right to left, we must only build our x-matrices right tighty…and with the requisite thinking. Related posts: Strategy – First Formulate, THEN DeployWhy Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters!

There are 2 Comments

Lori's picture

Imagine a corporate world where the critical thought process was utilized while forming every major company objective? Each thread in the "righty direction" was a step in the process. Utopia! So often there are just pie in the sky ideas provided to those that "must implement them within a set timeframe". That squelches any hope of a thoughtful process and successful end result. You end up with "a few screws loose" :)

markrhamel's picture

Hi Lori,

Thanks for the comment!

Excellent point regarding critical thinking (aka rigor) to avoid what some people call "magical thinking." Good catchball helps facilitate openness and professional skepticism and keeps the pie humble.

Best regards,