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Looking at 5 Easy Steps to Simplify the A3 Process

by Eric Ethington
January 8, 2021

Looking at 5 Easy Steps to Simplify the A3 Process

by Eric Ethington
January 8, 2021 | Comments (3)

In this instructional whiteboard video, Eric Ethington, LEI Coach and Lean Product and Process (LPPD) program manager, reminds us that the A3 process isn't as difficult as it may seem from afar. Eric enumerates and explains five steps that will make the A3 process that much easier to approach and maintain.

Check out a transcript for the video below.



Jump-starting A3s. Or, how a simple technique, plus what you already know about A3s, can lead to a happier you. But, first, you might ask, do I really need to do this? Why jump start? Let me ask you. Have you ever avoided starting an A3? Experienced writer's block? Well, this A3 inertia is normal and pretty common. Doing an A3 is hard work. There’s a lot to keep track of, a lot to consider. So it’s only normal that they can feel daunting at the beginning. For the jump-start, we’re going to borrow a technique from writers – just start writing! So let’s get going. When complete, you will have an outline for writing the first draft of your A3.

Step one is to create a collection template, a framework that I’m about to share, and a tool, which is your job to select, but I’ll show you one option. We’re going to borrow a powerful framework from the book Managing to Learn by John Shook. If you haven’t read it, get a copy. Regardless, the book shares a logical set of questions that, when considered together, yield an effective problem to solve. You can see the questions superimposed on the A3 below. For a tool, you want something easy, something that doesn't distract from the problem at hand – getting a quick draft of your A3 written. Although there are lots of options, I’m showing screenshots from Trello today. Just a quick tour of the Trello board. The questions from managing to learn are in the center. Then two bookends are added - brainstorming on the left and a parking lot on the right.

Step two is to capture your thoughts, what you think you know, in the brainstorming section. Just let your thoughts flow –but notice – only one thought per card (or post-it). This approach will allow sorting later.

Step three is to move the thoughts from brainstorming to the questions they best answer; don’t worry if a solution or something out of scope slipped in – just sort.

Step four is to sequence the thoughts, within each question, into a better storytelling flow. Do this for the background, analysis of the current situation, and goal. Don’t worry about the other sections.

Step five is to write your first A3 draft using this outline. There’s going to be missing information – the need to gather facts – but now you can create a plan to fill in those gaps. At this point, your focus is on defining your problem through grasping the situation – so you’ll only need the first three A3 thinking questions for now.

To wrap things up – just a few concluding remarks: this method does yield an outline; it also allows you to build a framework for the next steps; and finally, it can be an opportunity to get others involved. What it does not do is replace all the work required to do an effective A3.

You still have homework to do, processes to observe, and causes to determine. You have a lot of learning to do. Hopefully, you find this useful.

I’ll be back to talk about replacing opinions with facts. Take care until next time, Eric.

Keywords:  A3,  learning
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Halvor Prestmoen January 15, 2021

Thanks, Eric.

Great blog and excellent instructive video. We also use Trello and Planner a lot in our company. Your five steps suggestion to jump start A3 process will add value for us. 

This process could also be great to use in collaborative applications like Miro and Whiteboard O365


Reply »

Maria January 19, 2021

Great and really helpful video. Helps a newbie like me get a good starting point into this tool.

Looking forward to the one on facts not opinions!

Thanks again.

Reply »

Maria January 24, 2021

How do you decide to use an A3 versus a Project Plan?

I have been given a "small" process improvement problem to solve which now looks like it will require a full formal project.

Would the A3 serve as a project charter?

Reply »

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