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Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process (2 Day Class)

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Question: When is an A3 more than a sheet of paper with boxes to fill in?
Answer: When it is used as a tool for capturing and presenting A3 thinking and when it is used in the A3 process to bring about change, either at the individual level for personal betterment, or at the business or operational level for performance improvement.

A3 DojoIn his October 2008 e-letter Jim Womack announced, "We have just launched John Shook's new book, Managing to Learn, and I am tremendously excited. I think it is the most important work we have published at LEI. This is because John clearly explains why A3 thinking is the core of the Toyota management system and show how the act of creating an A3 also creates lean managers."

John, in response, to the basic question "What is an A3?" gave this explanation of the document's role in the A3 process: "The most basic definition of an A3 would be a P-D-C-A storyboard or report, reflecting Toyota's way of capturing the PDCA process on one sheet of paper. But the broader notion of the A3 as a process–embodying the way of thinking represented in the format–captures the heart of lean management. In this context, an A3 document structures effective and efficient dialogue that fosters understanding followed by the opportunity for deep agreement. It's a tool that engenders communication and dialogue in a manner that leads to good decisions, where the proposed countermeasures have a better chance of being effective because they are based on facts and data gathered at the place where the work is performed, from the people who perform it."

The purpose of this workshop is to explore the lessons and insights of Managing to Learn from four perspectives.

Note: each participant will receive a copy of Managing to Learn.

First participants will explore the requirements of sound A3 thinking and management by following the stages of learning illustrated in Managing To Learn (MTL). MTL describes how a young manager learns to handle a significant problem-solving responsibility by creating an A3 that earns him the authority to address the problem in the ways he proposes. This occurs as he is coached on his problem solving and A3 thinking by his boss and mentor. He steadily uses the knowledge he is learning to revise his initial "jump-to-a-solution" A3 into an effective PDCA story. Participants will examine how the A3 changes with each revision, what the young manager has learned about the A3 thinking, the A3 process that he applies in each revision, and what the course of his development indicates about the deep problem-solving focus that characterizes lean thinking.

Second participants will have the opportunity to develop their own eyes and ears to recognize effective A3 stories. They will describe the problem-solving thinking that is required in each section of the A3 for the PDCA story it tells to be effective. Participants will read several A3s and discuss how they would coach the authors to improve them. They will then be given final versions of the A3s and asked to determine if they are more effective and why they are more effective than the originals.

Third participants will create the Title, Background, Current Situation, Goal, Analysis, and Recommendations sections of an A3 for a problem-solving responsibility in their own work. Participants are asked to bring real A3s they are already working on for this exercise, or they may begin a new one during the class. They will work in small groups to read, discuss, and evaluate each other's A3s. They will coach each other as authors of their respective A3s offering guidance to consider ways their PDCA stories could be improved.

Fourth participants will learn various forms and uses of the A3 format. Examples from Managing to Learn will be highlighted, along with others. Topics that will be examined include:

  • Basic types of A3 stories and how the format differs for each
  • Role that A3 plays in the nemawashi process for gaining alignment with the stakeholders in a problem situation and seeking their agreement to proceed with the countermeasures or improvements being proposed
  • Ways that A3 functions as a change management tool, a general management tool, a human development tool and a knowledge sharing tool

Through instruction, small group discussions and exercises, the workshop participants will:

  • Learn the basic formats of A3s and uses of the A3 as a management process
  • Gain experience in the three basic roles of the A3 process
    • Writing an A3 (Author/Owner)
    • Reading A3s (Responder)
    • Coaching others about their own A3s (Coach)

Who should attend:

  • Any manager who wishes to improve his or her organization
  • Any manager who wishes to lead and manage his or her organization more effectively
  • Change agents, lean promotion office managers, and specialists
  • HR and OD professionals who wish to seek more effective means to deeply improve the thinking, behavior, alignment, and performance of their organization and the people in it
  • Senior executives who wish to improve their abilities to lead and manage
  • Anyone who wishes to improve his or her critical lean thinking
John Y. Shook

John Shook is recognized as a true sensei who enthusiastically shares his knowledge and insights within the Lean Community and with those who have not yet made the lean leap.

Shook learned about lean management while working for Toyota for nearly 11 years in Japan and the U.S., helping it transfer production, engineering, and management systems from Japan to NUMMI and subsequently to other operations around the world. While at Toyota's headquarters, he became the company's first American kacho (manager) in Japan. In the U.S., Shook joined Toyota’s North American engineering, research and development center in Ann Arbor, MI, as general manager of administration and planning. His last position with Toyota was as senior American manager with the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, KY, assisting North American companies implement the Toyota Production System. As co-author of Learning to See John helped introduce the world to value-stream mapping. John also co-authored Kaizen Express, a bi-lingual manual of the essential concepts and tools of the Toyota Production System. In his latest book Managing to Learn, he describes the A3 management process at the heart of lean management and leadership.

Shook is an industrial anthropologist with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, and is a graduate of the Japan-America Institute of Management Science. He is the former director of the University of Michigan, Japan Technological Management Program, and faculty of the university’s Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering.

He is the author of "Toyota’s Secret: The A3 Report"; Sloan Management Review, July 2010; "How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI"; Sloan Management Review, January 2010. Shook is a sought-after conference keynoter who has been interviewed on lean management by National Public Radio, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous trade publications.

David Verble

David applied his organizational skills at Toyota's Georgetown, KY, plant where he worked in management and organizational development during the facility’s startup phase and beyond. During his 10 years at Toyota, David became the manager of Human Resource Development at Georgetown and then manager of Human Resource Development for North American Manufacturing at Toyota's manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, KY. Before his tenure at Toyota, David was responsible for organizational development as assistant to the Dean of the College of Education, University of Kentucky. He currently aids companies implementing lean through Lean Transformations Group.



Tracey Richardson

Tracey has over 24 years experience in different roles within Toyota and learned lean practices as a Group Leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky from 1988-1998. She was one of the first team members hired, with the fortunate opportunity to learn directly from the Japanese trainers. As a Group Leader and Quality Circle Advisor, she learned first-hand about lean tools and culture development. Now, as President of Teaching Lean, Inc. Tracey currently works within Toyota Motor Manufacturing plants and suppliers and other companies on their lean journeys, helping them develop the capabilities of employees - from the team-member level up to company leadership - through problem-solving and aligning daily activities with company business plans (PDCA-hoshin), enabling these companies to create a lean culture that is the foundation for success and long term sustainability. Tracey is an active coach and contributor to LEI's MTL A3 Dojo available on lean.org. Tracey also teaches several problem-solving and A3 workshops as an LEI faculty member.

Eric Ethington

Eric Ethington has passion for lean, and over 30 years of work experience feeding that passion. Starting as an Industrial Engineer with General Motors’ AC Spark Plug Division, Eric learned early that continuous improvement required a balance of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills. In 1998 Eric began a lean implementation leadership position with Delphi’s Energy division in Flint, Michigan. During this same time, Eric coached cross-functional teams and met one of his most influential mentors, Yoshinobu Yamada. From 1998 to 2002 Eric spent over 50% of his time learning from Mr. Yamada in a variety of plants and situations throughout Delphi. This experience helped him to understand that lean transformations are very case-by-case; success is not achieved and sustained from a check-list. In 2001 Eric moved to Delphi’s World Headquarters as the manager of the corporate lean support team. He piloted the Lean Enterprise College where he was introduced to the A3 process as it was a featured segment in the training with the support of John Shook. After Delphi, Eric worked at Textron before founding Lean Shift Consulting in 2009, focusing on developing others to be lean leaders and transform their own organizations. Since 2009 he has also supported the LEI Lean Enterprise Partners Program. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University (formerly GMI), an MBA in Operations from the University of Michigan, Flint campus, and is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt in Design. He and his family call Grand Blanc, Michigan home; although if you cannot find him there, Eric is probably hiding in the woods in northern Michigan.

Ernie Richardson

Ernie has 25 years of Manufacturing and Human Resources management experience which allows him to see the cultural dynamics from both functional areas of a company. He gained this experience at Toyota Motor Manufacturing where he grew from Team Leader, to Group Leader, to Assistance Manager on the manufacturing side. After which he moved to HR, assuming, at different times, responsibility for skill development programs, safety and medical management. As Acting Medical Director for Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Ernie was responsible for nine on-site medical clinics across Toyota North America (convenience care, full-primary care, and occupational care). He was also responsible for disability management (as describe above) North American wide. Ernie worked at IBM for 8 years before joining Toyota. Currently, Ernie shares his extensive experience with members of the lean community as a co-owner of Teaching Lean and a Faculty member of the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Suggested Reading for this Workshop:

Price: $1,600.00 ($1,400.00 if the participant is taking 2 or more workshops at one location)
Price includes all participant materials, breakfast, lunch and snacks each day

Locations and Dates for Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
October 21-22  
Loews Hollywood Hotel
Hollywood, CA
Instructor(s): Eric Ethington
Day 1: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Day 2: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Hotel Discount Available
Important Information About This Event & Location

We encourage you to make hotel accommodations early.

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Our workshops are designed to cater to a limited number of participants.  If you must cancel a workshop registration, you will be given a full refund up to four weeks before the workshop. A cancelation occuring within four weeks of the workshop will be subjected to a $350 cancelation fee.  Substitutions may be made at any time prior to the start of the workshop. To cancel a workshop registration, please call LEI at (617) 871-2900.