Welcome to the MTL A3 Dojo
February 9, 2011
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Welcome to this MTL-mini site within www.lean.org a destination for thought leadership in lean management in general, "managing to learn" and the A3 process in particular.
The goal of this site is to narrow the gap between reading about how to create an A3 and actually doing A3 management. This site within a site is meant to be a shared space for A3 thinking, a place for you to engage with others on the nitty-gritty daily challenges of your specific problems. Even for you to create an A3 and own it in the process.
This mini-site emerged out of the 2008 publication of Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor, and Lead. Managing To Learn (MTL) has been successful as a book. It has had strong sales in 14 languages, led to the creation of effective workshops, and inspired much dialogue and enthusiasm in the lean community. I hope it has also led to effective problem-solving, decision-making, organizational alignment, and managing to learn.
Yet the broad interest in A3s has led to a potential managerial hazard: a reductionist approach to the A3 tool. A narrow, short-term, instrumental use of the tool which prevents people from using it in the generative, people-developing, evolutionary manner in which it evolved. We found the same problem with value stream maps. People often mindlessly copy, as Jim Womack said, "getting the words right but not the tune." What is needed is for people to understand the deeper purpose of the A3 management process and to make this tool their own through practice.
Let me quote from a column I wrote introducing the A3 process:
"The challenge isn't in teaching how to write an A3 but in how to use the A3 as a managerial process. If the A3 was presented as a narrow tool, the deeper and broader aspects of the overall process would be lost. I really didn't want to just introduce yet another narrow tool. It has long been my view that using tools for tool's sake (where everything is a hammer looking for a nail) is one of the very biggest problems in 'Leanworld.'" ...
"The most fundamental use of the A3 is as a simple problem-solving tool. But the underlying principles and practices can be applied in any organizational settings. Given that the first use of the A3 as a tool is to standardize a methodology to understand and respond to problems, A3s encourage root cause analysis, reveal processes, and represent goals and action plans in a format that triggers conversation and learning. A good A3 has sound problem-solving -- science -- embedded inside, but it achieves much more, exemplifying this great quote by a great scientist: "
Science is built of facts the way a house is built of bricks, but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a pile of bricks is a house." - Henri Poincaré
In this space we will be engaging the support and dialogue of the lean community - a network of fellow practitioners, who range in their own journey from just beginning to highly-experienced. We hope you will share your problems and solicit the input of people who are facing similar problems, or who have learned something from experience that can help you.
Over the coming weeks you will read columns from individuals with A3 experience and advice. You will be able to share your work in progress and ask for coaching from others. You will be exposed to helpful resources for your ongoing work. Please join in this conversation and help us to improve the dialogue and practice of this important managerial way.
On this side of the dojo, I will be joined initially by my experienced colleagues David Verble, Tracey Richardson, and Eric Ethington. Eventually, we will be joined by others. And, hopefully, by you.