Back from the Brink Business Consulting: How Hoshin Kanri Helped a Struggling Client During SARS-Part 2

19 Jul, 2020 | By

I have offered business consulting services in Toronto and across North America for almost two decades. As a senior business consultant, one of my greatest challenges was helping a struggling organization to negotiate the SARS pandemic. In part two of our blog, we’ll look at how Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment) helped operations recover during the SARS pandemic.

Today, many businesses are grappling with similar circumstances. COVID-19 has disrupted the regular flow of business, presenting challenges for organizations of all sizes. Even those that are strong and prosperous have not been spared. By leveraging lean methodology, I work one-on-one with organizations to improve processes and eliminate waste to deliver optimized value. The overall objective is to help an organization achieve their goals more quickly and sustainably, but what do you do when all the processes are upended?

When SARS hit Toronto 17 years ago, it hit hard.  Thinking turned upside down, forcing us to seriously reevaluate how to serve the customer.

They say crisis reveals character. I hope not. My response to the situation was far from perfect. Riddled with mistakes, we stumbled about as we wondered how to restock supply chains. Normal business processes had been ripped apart. There was high absenteeism. People worried about sick friends and colleagues. They also wondered if they were at risk, as did I. We rewrote a lot of policies and procedures—because we just had too.


Luckily, we had a fallback. Before SARS hit, we built a roadmap to resume effective day-to-day operations, as well as Emergency Response Protocols / Business Interruption Contingency Plans / Hazard Analysis & Interventions. Even with full implementation of our emergency protocols, we couldn’t foresee what would happen. There are too many variables during a pandemic. Thousands of jobs were at risk. Emotions ran high, and nerves were frazzled.

However, between the day-to-day operations and contingencies, we had a launching point.

We had already addressed a lot of challenges, which allowed leaders to focus on communication, authenticity, and the well-being of the people in the company.

In today’s competitive business environment, it is essential to have a policy deployment structure (a roadmap for the right work) that delivers results to outpace the competition. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before operations are disrupted and a business becomes obsolete. In the context of a deadly pandemic, where lives and supply chains are disrupted almost overnight, our important-but-not-urgent roadmap of daily tasks allowed team members to fall-back on processes that they knew worked.

Creating an effective roadmap for policy deployment is a relatively simple process:

  • Make a plan consistent with strategic goals
  • Cascade this plan to all leaders and beyond
  • Follow-up regularly
  • Reflect and adjust as needed

We could not foresee the impact of the SARS epidemic, and we still don’t know the long-term impacts of COVID-19. What is plain is that it’s vitally important to plan for business disruption, whatever the cause.

Business Consulting in Toronto

In part 3 of our blog, we’ll look at how Hoshin Kanri worked to help our client navigate the crisis. Spoiler—happy endings ahead. If your organization is facing serious challenges due to COVID-19, it’s important to have a plan. Business consulting can help.

Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your challenges with Toronto Business Consultant Leslie Barker at  416.528.7990 or email