Getting the Right Things Done | Pascal Dennis

Summary of: Getting the Right Things Done: A Leader’s Guide to Planning and Execution
By: Pascal Dennis


In the book ‘Getting the Right Things Done: A Leader’s Guide to Planning and Execution,’ Pascal Dennis introduces readers to the concept of Lean and how it has been successfully employed at Toyota using their strategy deployment system, ‘hoshin kanri.’ This methodology helps an organization align its processes and achieve well-defined goals. The book uses Atlas Industries, a struggling HVAC components manufacturer, as an example to demonstrate how deploying Lean practices can lead to innovation and improved efficiency. Key topics include grasping the situation, adopting new mental models, the six measures for crafting and deploying a strategic plan, and the critical processes involved in properly executing these short-term and long-term strategies.

Deploying Lean strategies

Sustaining Lean practices can be challenging for businesses, even after gaining efficiencies and creating value for customers. A deployment strategy aligned with organizational goals is essential for success. Toyota uses “hoshin kanri,” meaning a ship in a storm going in the right direction, to integrate Lean concepts and become a production powerhouse. Unlike traditional planning systems, hoshin kanri focuses not only on creating a strategy but also on crafting necessary steps for execution, identifying corporate values, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and hazards.

Embracing Lean Operations

Designing an effective strategic plan involves observing current processes to find dysfunctions and defining how the organization should function going forward. Adopt the Lean approach by embracing the “what do you think?” model instead of the traditional “thou shalt” mental model. Involve employees to tap into their creativity and expertise, and identify abnormalities by scanning wide and deep to get to the root cause of the issues.

Deploying Strategies at Atlas Industries

Atlas Industries, a manufacturer of HVAC components, hired a new COO to deploy a Toyota-style strategy plan to improve its struggling business. Through a diagnosis, the firm realized it lacked clear quality standards, poor information flow, and no mechanisms for making problems visible. The COO introduced six measures: establish a “True North,” develop the plan, deploy the plan, monitor the plan, solve problems, and improve the system. The plan-do-check-adjust cycle became the main tool for strategy deployment. Atlas created a “planning and execution tree” diagram, with True North at the top level and “business fundamentals” for the second level. The company chose “employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, delivery, and profitability” as its business fundamentals and constructed “mother strategies” for each. Department managers led the effort to transform each mother strategy into one or more “baby strategies” applicable to specific zones. Strategy deployment incorporates three PDCA cycles: a micro cycle, an annual cycle, and a macro cycle. Starting with a micro cycle helps managers get a feel for how the process works before tackling the macro cycle.

Planning Your Next Move

Discover the powerful A3 planning tool that simplifies your strategy.

If you’re looking to streamline your business plan and improve communication across teams, the A3 planning tool can help. This one-page storyboard provides an intuitive flow for your strategy and can be shared with stakeholders in just 5-10 minutes. To create an A3, use a size A3 sheet of paper and start your story flow from the top left to the bottom right. The left side should outline your situation and strategic objectives, including a hypothesis that describes how your actions can yield specific results.

Next, outline your action plan on the top right side of the page, and at the bottom, leave space for comments and a list of issues you have yet to address. At Atlas, the finance director took on the task of creating the A3 for the profitability fundamental, using the left-hand column to focus on performance gaps and targets, reflection on last year’s activities, and analysis.

The right-hand column should include an action plan that lists specific business goals and suggests activities for achieving them. These can include improving links between manufacturing, new product development, and sales, or reducing waste. Finally, follow-up with unresolved issues and suggestions for freeing up time to institute the actions, perhaps by eliminating unnecessary meetings.

By using the A3 planning tool, you can simplify complex information and create a straightforward plan of action for your business.

From Mother to Baby Strategies

The implementation of strategy involves “catchball” concepts, strategy deployment, and value-stream thinking as explained in this summary.

Implementing strategies is an essential part of any organization’s success. To carry out strategic plans effectively, they need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable actions. This is where the “catchball” concept comes in, where leaders toss the ball to their team members to devise ways to achieve goals. At Atlas, this involved defining True North before passing on the task of writing A3s to each department.

Departments then create their own A3 action plans, following the “mother to baby strategies” approach. This means that the larger departments, such as manufacturing, divide their strategies into smaller, more focused actions, while smaller departments require only one A3. To ensure alignment between departments, value-stream thinking is used to map the processes that produce customer value.

Kaizen events or “rapid improvement” events are organized to support implementation. These events focus on cost or revenue, depending on the department’s role in the organization. For example, manufacturing department events focus on cost; NPD events concentrate on revenue. NPD also created a “racetrack” model showing the progress of 20 projects from initiation to completion. This model makes progress visible, ensuring that no new project is proposed until an existing one is completed.

In summary, strategy implementation requires a balance between centralized control and autonomy. “Catchball” concepts, strategy deployment, and value-stream thinking are essential for this process, and breaking strategies down into smaller “baby strategies” ensures alignment within departments.

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