The Lean Strategy Video Series Summary

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 01-14-15

A few years ago I develop a short video series on Lean Strategy. Given my last post challenged you not to start the year without a clear strategy and purpose, I thought it was worthwhile to dust off this video series and re-release it. I had a lot of offline comments about it, and I’m very glad people found it helpful. I also had plenty of online feedback, but this one from Kevin Meyer was probably my favorite:

Twitter video series

Here is the entire video series, with a little editorial along the way.

The first video explores the role that competition plays, and should play, in your strategic thinking. I have unfortunately seen many companies craft almost every decision, and sometimes even their culture, based on a focus on the competition.

The second video describes a poorly understood concept in lean thinking: ideal state. We’ve used the concept actively for a very long time, and its finally getting more attention from the lean community as a contribution to the lean thought process. Ideal state doesn’t take long to explain, but I find in practice, many people struggle with it, partly from a lack of coaching but mostly from a lack of practice.

The next video is on the role of reflection. I will likely do another video series on reflection. You can’t set strategy and then put it on auto-pilot. Every strategy you develop is only a hypothesis. It MIGHT be true. But it requires learning and adjustment, all driven by reflection.

In this installment, I talk about strategy development as a process. Some organizations get stuck in the how, so much so that there is nothing innovative coming out of the process, but all the templates got filled in. Hopefully, that is not what you take away from this. But the method and the process matters.

In First, Understand the Current State, I address the fact that strategy is not just about picking a destination, its about picking a path. We have to get from here, to there. You have to know where you are first.

Returning to the point about process, I explore how the template is not very important. What is important is the conversation you have while building the strategy. The understanding and alignment that occurs with people in the room is essential. This is similar to process mapping, where the map is less important than the common understanding that is generated.

In Structured Like a Kaizen Event, I make a connection between the underlying structure and process of a kaizen event and strategy creation. This pulls together several of the ideas in previous videos.

So while you shouldn’t focus on the template, you probably still need one. The X-matrix is commonly promoted along with hoshin kanri as “lean strategy”, but not only is it just one template and was more adopted by lean than a product of it, many people struggle with its complexity. There is a brilliant sophistication to it, but that is worth nothing if people don’t get it.

Another topic that comes out of hoshin kanri is catchball, and people think it is more about getting people on board and aligned to the strategy. But its big value is gaining better understanding of the current state, from barriers to possibilities, from those closer to the work and to the customer and to the product or service.

There is much more to strategy, and even to lean strategy, but I hope that these nuggets of lessons help guide you along the path of successful strategy development, and deployment.