The Accelerated Breakthrough System

Your complete blueprint for a Lean Business System

Accelerated Breakthrough System (ABS) overview

Evolve or die?

We live in a time of unprecedented change. Technology is enabling disruption of traditional business models like never before. Innovation cycles are compressing. Whilst it took 50 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users, it took less than a year for YouTube to do the same. Pokemon Go achieved the same feat in just 19 days.

In this environment, thriving, or even surviving, demands that organisations are ambidextrous. They need to be able to run and improve existing operations whilst simultaneously transforming themselves to meet future market needs – many of which may not yet even exist.

Reaching 50 million users

History is littered with examples of those that failed to successfully innovate and paid the price. Kodak was killed by the digital camera, which in turn has been killed by the smartphone – even though they had a significant early lead on digital technology. Blockbuster was killed by Netflix and other similar services even though they also had an early lead on the subscription model. In smartphones, Nokia, Microsoft and Motorola lost out to Apple even though they had more capital and more customers.

The ability to systematically reinvent the organisation is not, however, enough. Organisations that fail to continuously improve their existing operations also frequently lose out to faster and more nimble competitors. It is not enough to be just great at innovation – ideas can be copied quickly and competitors don’t stand still. Apple’s lead in smartphones has been steadily eroded by Samsung and now Huawei. Organisations can also fail by not being able to systematically turn new business models into business as usual. Whilst customers welcome innovation – they rapidly tire of products and services, even the most innovative, that don’t work consistently or have persistent quality problems.

What is dangerous is not to evolve

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The Accelerated Breakthrough System (ABS)

Our belief is simply that the organisations that win in the longer term will be the ones that establish a systematic approach to simultaneously running, improving and transforming their businesses. It is this belief that led us to create the Accelerated Breakthrough System – a blueprint for an integrated “Strategy Implementation” system that ensures transformations in the way the organisation operates are systematically translated into business as usual and that the organisation has the capacity, capability and focus to achieve game-changing breakthroughs whilst also continually improving quality and increasing efficiency.

In creating this system, we have borrowed heavily from Toyota and other lean manufacturing leaders. The legendary Toyota Production System, and its many derivatives, essentially provide a blueprint that codifies how organisation can both run its daily operations (Daily Management) whilst simultaneously increasing value to the customer through reducing waste and improving flow across the value-stream (Value-stream Management).

Accelerated Breakthrough System (ABS)

These two components provide the foundation of the ABS – the Daily Management component defining how team members and supporting managers at the “work cell” level plan, execute, manage and improve daily work and the Value-Stream Management component defining how operational performance at the customer outcome level is managed including how chronic quality problems and value-stream wide improvements that need cross-functional involvement are implemented.

Over the last 30 years, many organisations, including Toyota themselves, have recognised the need to add a third component to their lean business systems – essentially defining how the organisation manages systematic innovation in its business model. This third component – which in the ABS we call Breakthrough Management - leverages the Hoshin Kanri methodology – a systematic approach to implementing game-changing breakthroughs which is based on applying the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle at a strategic not just problem solving level.

The ABS – a complete “Strategy Implementation” system

A product of more than a decade of effort, the Accelerated Breakthrough System distils everything we have learnt from working with leading Lean organisations into a complete “Strategy Implementation” system.

The foundation of the ABS is a set of “Guiding Principles”. These principles guide leaders and teams in terms of the beliefs and behaviours than underpin and reinforce the system.

Building on this foundation are a set of best practice tools and methods that are consistent with these guiding principles.

Sitting above these tools and methods are the “blueprints” for the three core management processes (which together support the complete strategy implementation cycle). These “blueprints” define the sequence of activities for each core process, which tools and methods are used and who is involved, accountable and responsible for each step in the process.

Strategy Implementation System
Core Management Process Breakthrough Management Daily Management Value-stream Management
Key Sub Processes
  • Strategy Refinement
  • Strategy Deployment
  • Strategy Execution
  • Standard Work Definition/Audit
  • Tiered Accountability Reviews
  • Teaching and Coaching/Go and See
  • Value-stream Analysis
  • Structured Problem Solving
  • Operational Performance Management
Tools and Methods
  • X-matrices/Catch-ball
  • Strategy A3s
  • Bowling Charts
  • Action Plans
  • Mitigation Plans
  • Standard Work
  • Leader Standard Work/Kata Coaching
  • Visual Management/Controls
  • Problem Solving Tools
  • Process Control
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Kaizen Events
  • Muri (Overburden) Tools
  • Mura (Unevenness) Tools
  • Muda (Waste) Tools
Guiding Principles
  • Clarity
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Engagement
  • Respect
  • Accountability
  • Root Cause
  • Gemba
  • Value
  • Flow
  • Customer Pull
  • Perfection

Why is strategy implementation so difficult?

Most leaders would acknowledge that implementing strategy is not easy. Our experience is that there are three core reasons why this is the case.

The first is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately convey the strategy, or more importantly the actions that it implies, to every individual in the organisation. Typically, a small fraction of the organisation (some researchers suggest under 10%) understands the strategy, even less what it implies for them individually. As a result, the vast majority of the organisations’ effort is not directed towards its achievement.

The second is that it is also difficult to stay focused on the important in the midst of the urgent. Few organisations achieve the level of stability and consistency in the daily operations that means that firefighting is the exception. For most organisations, most employees – even senior leadership – find themselves in a constant “whirlwind” which sucks their time and attention away from strategic priorities.

Finally, our observation is that most organisations lack the early warning systems that alert them when strategic actions are not having the expected effect or assumptions underpinning the strategy are not playing out. Without such early warning systems – typically in the form of leading KPIs with targets set based on the assumed impact of the strategic actions – organisations struggle to course correct in time to avoid the “super-tanker” running into the rocks.

Why Strategy Execution is hard

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How the ABS helps you implement your strategy

Our experience is that implementing Hoshin Kanri (Breakthrough Management) alone can have a significant impact on an organisations ability to successfully deliver its strategy. It’s for this reason that we often choose to focus on it first with new clients. Done right, Hoshin creates the clarity and focus that is essential to enable strategy to be communicated widely and for it to not overwhelm the people who need to implement it. With a good “catch-ball” process Hoshin can help address the communication challenge that derails many attempts to implement strategy ensuring more of the energy of the organisation is directed towards achieving the breakthroughs.

Whilst implementing Hoshin alone can improve execution results, it becomes an even more effective “Strategy Implementation” process when Breakthrough Management is integrated with Daily Management and Value-stream Management. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is that a key effect of successfully implementing Daily Management and Value-stream Management is that leaders have more time to spend on implementing Breakthrough change. No longer are leaders caught in a whirlwind that constantly distracts them from strategic priorities. There is less pull on leadership time as Daily Management drives greater ownership and accountability for improvement in the front-line and there is there is less need for leadership to get involved in firefighting as Value-stream Management drives process stability and defect reduction.

The second is that, as strategy implementation becomes more widely understood in the organisation as a closed-loop cycle, there is more emphasis on ensuring the outcome of Hoshin breakthroughs is a new operating model that can be run as business as usual. This prevents the backsliding that often happens when organisations implement Hoshin but have no foundation of Daily Management on which to build. Additionally, the focus on value stream and KPI definition that comes with Value-stream Management means that there are customer outcome/value-stream level KPIs in place to track the implementation of breakthroughs and provide early warning when the impact of these strategic actions are not as expected.

Taken together, the 3 core management processes of the ABS enable organisations to make step changes towards a new operating model, whilst securing and then improving on the gains made in each step on the journey to the new breakthrough state.

What is Hoshin?
How time should be spent by leaders
Daily and Value-stream management help sustain growth

How can Breakthrough Partners help you win?

In Breakthrough Partners, we recognise that every organisation is starting from a unique position. Which component of the ABS will be the most beneficial to implement first (and how it is implemented to build on your existing foundation) will be dependent on the maturity of your existing management system and your organisation’s specific priorities.

Whilst we have developed detailed implementation roadmaps which will guide you through the implementation of each core process, our experience is that the first step is nearly always a conversation in which we can learn more about your ambitions and starting point. If you would like to learn more about the ABS, explore our range of Strategy Implementation services or would just like to discuss your specific goals with one of our strategy implementation experts, please request a call-back. We look forward to the conversation.

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