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Want to Instill A3 Thinking? Teach A3 Behaviors

by Andrew Quibell
June 25, 2015

Want to Instill A3 Thinking? Teach A3 Behaviors

by Andrew Quibell
June 25, 2015 | Comments (5)

Taking on the task of leading an A3 to solve a problem means going through a series of steps whereby the outcome of each step is not yet known. The path forward is not at all straightforward. Quite often your initial problem statement is based on a symptom and the actual point of cause is hidden. Only by applying a step by step mentality, being tenacious in purpose, and looking for data and facts do you arrive at a root cause you and others can clearly see and therefore believe. This is why A3 thinking is all about A3 behaviors.

Take a look at the words and images in the storyboards below. These are images I've used to teach A3 thinking behaviors. I've experienced every aspect detailed in these story boards at some point while trying to solve many different problems during my career.

And a second storyboard:A3

What have you experienced and what DON'T you see in the images? What do you notice? Do you have a real world example that relates? At which steps do you and your team members struggle?

Tell us in the comments below.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  A3,  problem solving
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5 Comments | Post a Comment
Vitezslav Pilmaier June 25, 2015

Great posters ! (Even bit chaotical to me as I like the information to be more organized :o)).

Honestly saying the biggest struggle is always to start the problem solving approach based on facts and data. Interestingly it is not beacuse of the laco of will of my fellow collegues, but it seems they are afraid to start an A3 (it is too much open format -> "what should I write in it ?", "where, how to start ?", "what if...?").

So we have started to "hide" the A3 logic into more applied (and more formal) formats like accident reports, non-conformity reports and so on (and then we try to guide the problem solvers in the A3 thinking manner). Interestingly enough souch "guerrilla A3" approach brings a practical effect, but I am suspicious this will work only with our specific problem (start an A3 = "eat the frog" or "jump to the (cold) water") and in our specific company culture.

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Andrew Quibell June 28, 2015

A3 formats? Coming from a Engineer background you are right that folks (in particular technically minded folks) love to have a framework, structure or box to work within, without this to cling to then it can stall an A3 application.

When I rolled out the A3 tool kit in my current enterprise along with a very inter-active training approach, I developed 5 types of A3 template (copying the approach from Toyota to give folks a framework for certain situations to use). This helped to create the flexibility for folks to find a format that might work better for their type of story they wish to write about. So we had type 1 - proposals, type 2 status reporting, types 3, 4 and 5 EHS & Quality problem solving A3's, later an engineering A3, and general business case / information sharing A3 were incorporate into the master A3 work book and set of templates circulated through the enterprise.

The result was now folks could select something that might not be exactly right, but ideal for modification or a slight tweak so they could adapt the headers, box sizes and content to tell there story. This enabled greater acceptance of the methodology and willingness to just try doing an A3.

An added set of coaching notes for the A3 writer and the A3 coach were also developed by me for inclusion in the workbook in order to provoke deep thinking about what to consider and ask yourself as you work your story.

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dan markovitz June 29, 2015


Would you be willing to share your templates for the various types of A3s?



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Andrew Quibell July 01, 2015

Dan, connect with me on LinkedIn and I'll see what I can do to help you out with the request.

Durward Sobek June 30, 2015

What a great way to represent A3 thinking!  While there is a rough sequence of steps and there are basic principles, I agree that that it is never straightforward.  Thanks for sharing these visuals.

Templates are probably a necessary starting point for most organizations.  When you are first starting out, most of us need some structure and help as to what to do next.  To keep the templates from being filled out pro forma, though, requires engaged leadership.  Do they require it just to check a box and file it away with a quick atta-boy or atta-girl?  Or do they use the A3 to help coach the author in their efforts and/or help drive the stakeholders towards consensus on the best decision for the organization?  Leadership plays a key role in instilling A3 thinking.

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