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Don't Present Your A3: Share Your A3

Ethington, Eric
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In these columns we consistently stress how the A3 process enables collaboration, drives engagement and gets buy-in. In that vein, I wanted to take a minute to stir up some discussion on the actual act of engaging others: sharing your A3.Every time I teach a Managing to Learn workshop, the topic of how to best present A3s comes up. “Eric, I like the problem solving aspect, but I find A3s hard to read on the screen,” people say. Or, “I have to break my A3s into multiple PowerPoint slides so people can read them.”

I try to steer people away from the word “presenting.” The word conjures up images of conference rooms with a big table, an audience scattered about the room, empty seats up front and a projector with a screen. There you are, trying to communicate your message while the others in the room multitask. It's not the best environment to get others engaged.

Sometimes a simple word choice can help us to see a way forward. I would like to suggest that we think less about presenting A3s and more about sharing them.Sharing brings up images of a few people closely engaged on a common item. They are working with each other, not having someone show something to them.

That’s why I recommend that you think of your A3 as a small, portable whiteboard. We often discuss problems with others using an actual whiteboard--use your A3 in the same fashion. And don't wait for major milestones to engage your stakeholders. Share the A3 with them often (think "small lot" sharing). As you do this you can take meeting notes right on the A3 so the engagement doesn't get lost.

How about consensus?

Of course the time will come that you need to bring all the stakeholders together to ensure consensus. Now you will need to “present” your A3; but still think, “share.” One way to share effectively in this situation is to provide a copy of the A3 to everyone at the meeting. It’s only one page (versus 30 or more for a PowerPoint). The stakeholders can look at the screen to follow your story, but they can also reference the hard copy for any details. They naturally feel a stronger sense of ownership over something they can hold in their own hands. Keep one copy for yourself, this is for you to write notes on as the A3 is discussed and you gain additional input. Additionally, this provides you with quick and simple meeting minutes. 

The "right" answer

So in summary, SHARE your A3s, do so in SMALL LOTS, and use the A3 itself for both sharing and recording dialogue. What has worked for you? There is no one "right" answer to this issue. it will depend on your unique situation. So I encourage you to share your ideas. 

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