A3 Reports and A3 Thinking
As the amount of information that we have at our fingertips grows at an exponential rate, the ability to synthesize and distill information becomes increasingly important. A-3 thinking is a process of collaborative problem solving and concise documentation. The point of the briefness of the documentation is the synthesis of the learning achieved through the problem solving process.
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Managing to Learn
Implementing World Class Manufacturing, 2nd Edition
The idea is to fit all of the relevant information on one side of an A-3 size paper (roughly 11X17). The A-3 report is not simply a documentation format – it is a mechanism to foster deep learning, ongoing collaboration, and thoroughness. It is also a means to preserve knowledge gained through collaborative problem solving (whether it be a business, organizational, operations, or engineering problem).
Toyota uses three basic types of A-3 reports; problem solving, proposal, and status. Organizations need to determine what types of A-3 reports can add the most value in their business. The format of the A-3’s can vary as long as the basic story line stays intact. The value comes from the thinking that went into generating the A-3 report, not conformance to a specific template. We at Aera have decided to follow the Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) story line for most of our problem solving A-3’s (there may be situations where another story line makes more sense).
The A-3 report tells a story. For instance, the problem solving A-3 tells a story of:
- How a particular problem was identified and why it is a problem (Define)
- The history and current state of the problem (Measure) How the problem was investigated and what solutions were considered (Analyze)
- The action plan for solving the problem and preventing recurrence (Improve) How and when the follow-up will be conducted (Control)
The author of the A-3 must distill the information down to the most vital points. While this seems simple on the surface, most people find it very difficult to decide what data and information is required to give the reader a thorough understanding of the story.
Creating an effective A-3 requires reliable data and information. Toyota looks at a problem like a crime scene investigation. First, the investigators need to go to the actual place where the problem occurred (gemba), they need to be very observant and gather all of the relevant evidence before it is contaminated. They need to consider the evidence in its context and solve the mystery. Lastly, they must document their discoveries and conclusions. The A-3 report provides a thinking process by which a problem can be thoroughly investigated, and the knowledge gained through the investigation can be validated, shared, and preserved. The next page contains a sample format for an A-3 report.
Putting the Pieces Together A-3 or 11X17 size paper
Keep in mind that the size of the various sections will vary depending on the amount of detail necessary to tell the story. Also, the format may be somewhat different depending on the problem. The most important point is to clearly, succinctly, and accurately tell the story so it can be shared throughout the organization and the knowledge preserved for future use.
NOTES: Team members, file location, etc.
THEME:Type of problem
DEFINE:Current condition and problem statement -A clear and succinct description of the problem using facts and data. This Section could use text, charts, and/or pictures –however the current condition and problem could best be illustrated.
MEASURE:This section illustrates process performance –typically using trend charts, bar charts, Pareto charts, etc. The measures should illustrate actual vs. target condition for the problem being addressed.
ANALYZE:This section describes the analysis process and the findings. Depending on the type of analysis conducted, it could include diagrams, pictures, text, etc.
IMPROVE: This section contains the countermeasures and improvement plan –what, who, and by when. This section will be used to track implementation and for later follow-ups.
CONTROL: This section indicates which Manager approved the report, and when and by whom a follow-up will be performed for confirmation of desired effect.