Book: Reflections on Hoshin Planning

“A significant contribution to the Hoshin body of knowledge. There is no such thing as a perfect solution, but in all cases, Boisvert creates a useful point of departure for practitioners to craft their own best solution.”       

– Mike Cowley, author of Beyond Strategic Vision: Effective Corporate Action with Hoshin Planning

Picking up where many strategic planning “how-to” books leave off, Reflections on Hoshin presents practical ideas and tools for overcoming the messier obstacles faced by today’s executives and planning professionals. Boisvert takes on how to advance your strategy productively, even in the face of sometimes tough challenges, such as working with unions, planning during an acquisition, and dealing with measurement fatigue. The book addresses these and other issues with a candid, practical, and compassionate eye. Using real stories and examples, Boisvert shares valuable observations she‘s made through over two decades of consulting with organizations in various industries. Inevitably, your organization will experience unplanned events and surprising results that will require modification of what look like perfectly good plans. A reliable practice of Hoshin-style strategic planning stays on its toes. Flexibility, alertness, pragmatism, and thoughtful, hardworking leadership are the themes of this book.

“The experience and practical advice clearly illustrated through numerous case studies enable the reader to execute effective planning in the midst of organizational change (both planned and unplanned). The application of Hoshin through mergers & acquisitions, and in the fast-paced startup environment, make for fascinating reading. This is an essential reference for leaders looking to bring a steady focus to achieve transformational improvement in today’s rapidly moving business world.”

– Julia O’Neill, Distinguished Fellow, CMC Modeling & Statistics Lead, Moderna

The conditions in which leaders apply Hoshin-style strategic planning today have changed substantially since the method was introduced in the 1950‘s. There is a much better and more broadly distributed understanding of process improvement principles and practices in today‘s organizations. Executives rotate in and out of organizations with more frequency, organizational structures are often more fluid and open, markets change much faster, employees have greater expectations for stimulation and growth from their work, and technology is central to everything we do.

To get results from strategic planning efforts, leaders have to consider this complex, ever-changing environment. A solid understanding of the mechanics, techniques, and tools of planning isn‘t enough to achieve outstanding performance. This book examines Hoshin-style strategic planning a little less through the controllable lens of methods and tools, and more through the ever-shifting and imperfect lens of real daily life in organizations.

Boisvert provides insight that is real, honest and practical. As any executive knows the path to improvement is strewn with obstacles, Boisvert expertly tackles those obstacles head on and confidently acknowledges the “messiness” that can occur in organizations. The book is well written and engaging. I appreciate that it not only includes technical tools but also provides great insight into the “human” side of Hoshin Planning. A must read for leaders looking to begin (or improve) their Hoshin Journey.

Jacquelyn Eddis, Chief Operating Officer, Northeast Foods

Book Excerpt: Introduction

Getting satisfying results from Hoshin Planning means leveraging the special, sometimes subtle features of the method. Whether you’ve been pushed into the practice of Hoshin Planning, or your excited to be engaged with it, it can be a heavy lift. Reflection on Hoshin Planning offers a window into the experiences of others and confirmation that results can be had even when the method is imperfectly applied.

Organization and Use of the Book

Each article in the book is designed to stand alone, and they can be read in any order. Articles one through four discuss structural components of Hoshin Planning: overall process, organizing for implementation, strategy formation and pre-planning, and measurement. Articles five and six discuss social and organizational development topics: Hoshin leadership and managing the change invited by Hoshin. Articles seven and eight describe how Hoshin can be applied under two particular organizational conditions: during an acquisition and when using lessons from how startup companies plan.

Article 7 discusses Hoshin Planning that is interrupted by an M&A event and moves through somewhat untested written ground. In 2012 and 2013, three of my Hoshin Planning clients were either acquired or made an acquisition. Other than reports using aggregated survey data from big consulting houses like Deloitte and Ernst and Young, very little is shared from the inside of these events, for competitive and legal reasons. There is even less written about what happens to Hoshin Planning during M&A. My intention in Article 7 is to offer ideas on how to be proactive and positive, based on my own consulting work, without suggesting that M&A is anything but secretive and disruptive, if often exciting. Most people in an organization will have absolutely no control over how an M&A event goes down. If I err in tone, it will be on the side of seeming excessively hopeful, to balance out what I know to be the difficulty and loss that can attend M&A events. My goal is to open a dialogue, share my own observations and a few from client company executives, and make a contribution to the discussion of Hoshin Planning in an acquisition-intensive economy.

Article 8 on startups is written a little more personally, in part because linking how startups plan to how traditional companies plan isn’t something I’ve found much in the work of others. The Business Centered Learning™ office is currently located in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and we are surrounded by startups. My work and conversations with founders over the last several years has me appreciating what makes their genre of organization special, and my work with client executives in traditional companies practicing Hoshin has given me a receptive playing field for testing some ideas I get from my startup founder colleagues.

Finally, there is a appendix explaining the general format and use of the basic Hoshin Planning tools referred to in various places in the book: Plan-Do-Check-Act, Affinity Diagram, Interrelationship Diagraph, Radar Chart, Annual Plan Table, Implementation Table, Review Table, Catchball, and the Pareto Chart and Fishbone Diagram. Several other books, such as The Memory Jogger™ II, cover the construction and use of these tools more thoroughly. Appendix A will simply describe when and for what purpose the tool is used in the Hoshin cycle and provide an example.

Less-Than Hoshin

As the decades-old body of knowledge in Hoshin Planning has been applied in modern environments, innovations and efficiencies in applying the system have been realized. An application of Hoshin-style Strategic Planning that strays from the traditional format leaves some people feeling like sneaks, though. The senior vice president for strategic planning at a client hospital system told me, half-joking, “I feel guilty! Our organization has not embraced Hoshin, with a capital H, per se, except in the quality department. We are more organic. We really haven’t taken it down to the level of the tables to implement. [pause] What is it about us that doesn’t want to be exact about it?” 

But his and other organizations are disciplined, if inexact, in their practice of Hoshin-like planning. The pro forma or lock step use of the tools and mechanics of Hoshin Planning doesn’t necessarily make a planning system better. An appreciation for the Hoshin principles of focus, breakthrough, continuous improvement, change, and inclusiveness might, though. In writing this book, I included Hoshin-like planners in the dialogue, as their input adds value, too.


This book has references to a few of my closest clients. Focusing on real stories and examples has been a natural choice, as it’s through working with sustaining practitioners of Hoshin that my thoughts about the methodology have formed. These executives, plant managers, engineers, physicians and others who have invited me into their Hoshin Planning work are making the professional world around them better. Naturally, I believe that these excellent individuals, groups, and organizations are the best, and I want you to meet them.


I imagine these topics look different to different people. They look a little different to me, too, year after year. Writing a book has been an exercise in ongoing reflection. Every time I sit with a client I learn something new, often subtle, now and then profound, and I continue my work in Hoshin Planning at once aware of certain predictable patterns and yet open to changing my mind.