Thursday, January 17, 2008

A3 Thinking

The A3 report is so named because it is written on an A3 sized paper (metric equivalent of 11” x 17”). Toyota has developed several kinds of A3 reports for different applications. We have adapted the problem-solving report for use by healthcare workers, most of whom do not have engineering or business backgrounds. A template for our version of the A3 problem-solving report can be found as an appendix to this paper. The report flows from top to bottom on the left-hand side, then top to bottom on the right-hand side. The three-hole punch on the left-hand combined with a tri-fold enables A3 reports to be stored in standard three-ring binders. While the names of the boxes can change, the basic storyline remains the same, as will be explained in the following subsections. Successful A3s are done at the frontline, either directly by or validated by the people doing the work. This paper presents an A3 report template, describes the problem-solving approach it represents followed by an example, and discusses implementation, deployment issues, and potential benefits.
Some people may look at an A3 and think it's "too complicated or too busy" a normal reaction to a detailed A3. We're considering a lot into a small space. But you will find that good A3 stories have an intuitive flow and can be told in five to 10 inutes. The author tells the story, we follow along on the paper until he or she finishes, and a question and answer session follows.
By the time the A3 is presented to senior management, everybody in the room has already seen and agreed to it. At companies like Toyota it's not unusual for an immediate decision to be made after a five minute presentation.
There is a danger that A3s can be appealing to people short of time and overwhelmed with paper and electronic reports. One piece of paper looks pretty good and that A3 becomes a dictate from management, a shiny new toy that everyone must use."from now on, everything will be A3!"
Additionally, people often try to outdo one another by creating fancy grapichs or by considering more and more information on the page. Please remember the purpose of A3s is to gain a shared understanding of a critical issue in order to solve problems and get results. " Now we can write our strategic plan," Karras said " The most important thing is to tell a clear, concise story on one page."