Back from the Brink Business Consulting: How Hoshin Kanri Helped a Struggling Client During SARS-Part 3

11 Aug, 2020 | By

When SARS came to Toronto in 2003, I had recently been hired by an organization that was already navigating potential layoffs and shutdown. For a new business consultant, it was a worst-case scenario. The client was just starting to stabilize when news of a disease that started halfway around the world triggered mass economic turmoil and began disrupting supply chains.

In times of crisis, it’s important to reevaluate how you serve your customers. When normal business processes are ripped apart and stability goes out the window, policy deployment can be a life-saver, and we had already begun to implement principles of Policy Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) that became our anchor.

Principles of lean business consulting:

  • Create a plan consistent with strategic goals
  • Deploy tactically at every level in the company
  • Follow-ups to discuss outcomes regularly
  • Evaluate outcomes and adjust as necessary

It’s impossible to predict every outcome a pandemic can trigger. However, the plans we put in place prior to the outbreak provided a valuable roadmap. We’d already refined operations to drive progress at every level. More importantly, as a minimalist system that developed out of post-war Japan, we had successfully streamlined decision-making and communications. Timelines for important decision-making dropped from months to weeks to days to 24 hours.

The ability to make quick decisions is a strategic advantage in any competitive market, but when an organization is in survival mode, it becomes imperative. The stakes were high. Thousands of jobs were at risk. However, team members were able to pull together and focus on assigned tasks while managers and executives focused on communication and the right strategy.

A few important discoveries guided our process:

  • Self-correcting mechanisms could compensate for imperfections
  • Data had to be the crux of all decision making
  • Uncertainty is inevitable but it’s possible to fail forward

With consistent effort from many talented teams and individuals, the organization recovered. For businesses facing disruption, whether the source is economic uncertainty, technical challenges, or a global pandemic, speed is key to relevance, and strategic intent is vital to speed. Business consulting can help.

As a Toronto-based business consultant, I work with organizations across North America. To learn more about how a system like Hoshin Kanri can be implemented to quickly advance the strategic goals of your organization, please request a complimentary consultation at 416.528.7990 or