The A3 Process -- Discovery at Toyota and What it Can Do for You
By: Shook, John | October 30, 2008
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. ” More »
How Do We Sustain A3 Thinking in our Organization?
By: Balle, Michael | December 12, 2011
Dear Gemba Coach My firm has been investing a lot of time and energy this year in teaching A3 thinking to our staff. The workshops have been going great, but how do we keep this work going when people return to their daily work? How can we “pull” A3 thinking through the organization after the formal training is over? More »
Should I use an A3 report to kick off a problem-solving effort?
By: Ballé, Michael | August 1, 2013
Dear Gemba Coach, Should I use an A3 report to kick off a problem? I encourage my managers to tell me about their problems on the shop floor. They always pull something out of the air and say ‘lets work on this. .. ’ What I would really like is for them to create some kind of A3 report that explains why this problem is happening. Any advice? More »
It Takes 2 (or more) to A3
By: Womack, Jim | October 7, 2008
We've just launched John Shook's new book, Managing to Learn, and I'm 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 shows how the repeated act of creating A3s also creates lean managers. But I'm worried as well as excited. When we launched John and Mike Rother's Learning to See 11 years ago, I expected readers would use the wonderful tool of value-stream mapping (VSM) to engage in a dialogue with everyone touching value streams. I More »
Is There a Right Way to Teach A3?
By: Balle, Michael | November 8, 2011
We’ve been teaching A3 problem solving to all our managers, but so far I fail to see any clear improvement of our problem solving ability. Is there a right way to teach A3? More »
Why don’t middle managers practice A3 thinking? (Part 2)
By: Ballé, Michael | June 3, 2013
Dear Gemba Coach,I’m a lean consultant, and have been hired by a large service organization to develop an A3 problem solving training program for their middle-management. Why is it so hard to engage middle-managers in rigorous analysis? It’s not that they don’t understand the concepts or that they don’t feel it could help. They often just don’t seem to get it. How can I do my work here? More »
Why don’t middle managers practice A3 thinking?
By: Ballé, Michael | May 28, 2013
Dear Gemba Coach, I’m a lean consultant, and have been hired by a large service organization to develop an A3 problem solving training program for their middle-management. Why is it so hard to engage middle-managers in rigorous analysis? It’s not that they don’t understand the concepts or that they don’t feel it could help. They often just don’t seem to get it. How can I do my work here? More »
Learning from Managing to Learn
By: Shook, John | March 3, 2009
It has been about four months since the release of Managing to Learn, now already in its second printing. I’ve received incredible response from many quarters, some great reviews both on-line and in print, and some thought-provoking questions. Below are two exchanges you might find interesting. Following are two questions from Dr. Jaap van Ede of www. procesverbeteren. nl, an “independent knowledge platform” in the Netherlands. The exchange was published in conjunction with his scheduled full review of MTL in the Dutch journal In Logistiek. Dr. van Ede: I think it would have been better if the thoughts of coach More »
Homicide by Example?
By: Womack, Jim | July 13, 2010
My LEI colleague Dave LaHote is fond of saying that managers - and especially senior managers - overestimate their effectiveness, particularly as they seek to improve their organizations through formal initiatives. And they underestimate the impact (often negative) of their daily personal actions on employees. Recently I witnessed a striking example while visiting a metal casting plant in a developing country owned by a multi-national headquartered in a highly developed country. (I hope you will understand why I'm careful not to identify places I visit unless I can offer praise. I try to show respect for my hosts when they More »
Learning to Manage
By: Womack, Jim | January 22, 2009
My colleague John Shook has recently written a wonderful book for LEI about "managing to learn". By this he means the method of discovery that lean managers use to deploy initiatives from higher organizational levels, solve problems at their organizational level, and evaluate proposals from lower organizational levels. By using this method at every level on a continuing basis, organizations truly learn how to learn while creating ever better managers. In Managing to Learn John contrasts the lean manager with the old-fashioned "dictator" manager -- who simply tells everyone what to do -- and the new-fashioned modern manager -- who tells More »
Mega Mura Bubble Trouble
By: Womack, Jim | November 13, 2008
I started writing my monthly e-letter in October of 2001 to speak to the worries of the Lean Community as the world economy slid into recession. So this month marks the end of one complete cycle -- seven years of bust, boom, and bust -- as the world enters a new recession. When Dan Jones and I wrote Lean Thinking in 1996 we believed that the spread of lean production would damp the business cycle. Economists have long thought that at least half of the depth of recessions is due to companies working off their inventories and delaying the purchase More »
Learning Lean - Collaboratively
By: Shook, John | January 26, 2012
I wish I knew more about learning. I know quite a lot, just not nearly enough. Like you, I’ve been educated – hopefully even learning throughout that process – for many (too many?) years. I’ve – again hopefully – continued to learn outside of formal “education” throughout my life, as have you, in work and personal life. More »
So Long 2009 - Hello 2010!
By: Shook, John | January 6, 2010
Whew, what a year! Most everyone I know is eager to escort the hard times of 2009 out the door in hopes of a more prosperous 2010. While hope has never been a very effective business strategy, I remain optimistic for a good year ahead. It's been a month since I posted a new column. I did want to let the healthcare column sit there for awhile – not a month, but for a couple of weeks – to see how people would react. Hah – I'll take no credit nor accept any blame for the passage of the two More »
The Mind of the Lean Manager
By: Womack, Jim | July 30, 2009
Several years ago I started to talk about the need to move beyond lean tools - including the very powerful concept of Value-Stream Mapping - to lean management. At the same time we at LEI began to publish a set of volumes on lean management techniques. These consist of strategy deployment to set priorities from the top of the organization, A3 analysis to deploy new initiatives and solve problems in the middle of the organization, and standardized work with kaizen to create stability and sustainability at the bottom of the organization where value is actually created. Recently I've been walking More »
What is your opinion about transformation process steps?
By: Ballé, Michael | February 8, 2016
What is your opinion about transformation process steps? First we choose a problem and start problem-solving processes (A3 or 8-step methods) and after the steps create our first standards; OR first write down the processes as they are now and choose problems to solve by measuring the gaps between first standards and our goals? More »
What? My Pull System Is Supposed to Fail?
By: Ballé, Michael | July 11, 2014
Dear Gemba Coach, We’ve given up on installing a pull system – every time we try, our on time delivery rate plummets, and we can’t let customer service suffer more than it already does. We’re doing a lot of A3 problem solving – isn’t that lean enough? More »
Making People Before Making Products
By: Ballé, Michael | July 26, 2010
Dear Gemba Coach, I keep hearing about “making people before making products” but I have a hard time visualizing what this means in practice. Would you be able to shed some light on this practice? I’ve spent the best part of the previous 15 years trying to figure this out and can share what I’ve learned … so far. When I first studied how Toyota engineers implemented TPS at a supplier, they always knew what the next step was, and so I assumed (as did the supplier’s engineers) that had a roadmap of how they wanted to make the cell More »
How do I set up an obeya room?
By: Ballé, Michael | January 12, 2015
Columns; eLetters; Emails
Dear Gemba Coach, I’d like to set up an obeya room – where should I start? What’s the simplest way to do it? More »
Re-purpose Before You Re-structure
By: Womack, Jim | April 9, 2009
One of my favorite questions when meeting with senior leaders of enterprises is, "What is your organization's purpose?" The typical and immediate response is, "To make money and grow. " "But," I respond, "this answer has nothing to do with your customers, who provide the money your organization needs to profit and grow. " I then repeat my question, but elaborate, 'What does your organization do to solve customer problems better than competitors so that customers old and new will pay good money for your services and goods and buy more over time?'" In recent years a fashionable alternative to More »
By: Shook, John | June 26, 2013
Lean thinking and practice is all about tackling problems – little ones, big ones, wicked ones, sticky ones, concrete ones, fuzzy ones. We tackle problems in order to make things better. How about the ever-present problem of… communication? More »
What I've Learned About Planning and Execution
By: Womack, Jim | December 14, 2006
By the time I founded the Lean Enterprise Institute in mid-1997, I had been thinking for years about how organizations prioritize and plan. And I had carefully read the policy deployment (hoshin kanri) literature emerging from Japan since the 1970s. So I thought it would be easy to develop and implement both a long-range and a one-year plan. I asked my friend Pat Lancaster (then the Chairman of Lantech, the subject of Chapter 6 of my and Dan Jones’s Lean Thinking) to come to Boston to help us as a facilitator. Our whole team set out with great energy and More »
Is Lean Scientific?
By: Ballé, Michael | December 28, 2009
Dear Gemba Coach,I often hear that lean is like the scientific method. As a lean consultant, I facilitate kaizen events, and find it hard to see the parallels. Could you clarify what people mean when they say this, and how it applies to our work?Thank you for this very fundamental question. It is clear that the founders of lean thought they were applying the scientific method (in the form of Deming's PDCA cycle) to business problems. As Art Smalley and Durward Sobek point out in Understanding A3 Thinking, their great book on A3s, on page three of the first leaflet More »
What Role Should a Quality Department Play in a Lean Organization?
By: Ballé, Michael | December 16, 2009
Dear Gemba Coach,I really enjoy the passage (found on pages 29-30) in The Lean Manager where you discuss the relationship between a dedicated quality group and the overall quality system in a company. I'm thinking in particular of two quotes. The first: "I want you to shrink the quality department, while also lowering the number of quality incidents to customers. " Second: "I don't give a damn about quality procedures or any quality-management systems you might have. " How can this be true? How can you improve quality overall while reducing the number of people who are developing policies, supporting More »
Detroit Auto Show Overshadowed by Dr. Womack's Trashing of Toyota
By: Shook, John | January 25, 2010
Jim Womack's most recent e-letter titled "Beyond Toyota" has sparked a lively and even rancorous debate. "We all, even including Toyota, need to go beyond Toyota," Jim wrote, adding, "the wonderful days of Toyota sweeping all before it as it reveals more and more aspects of its value-creating methods are done. "Many have reacted strongly to these words. Actually, re-reading Jim's letter now, I find that those two sentences, the most provocative of his comments, aren't really all that provocative. Anyway, debate is a healthy thing, right? As for "Lean". . . Yes, "lean" is in many respects the wrong More »
The U.S. Versus the World Healthcare Cost Gap
By: Shook, John | November 17, 2009
Lean thinking dictates that we try to turn any "problem" (or need, however big, however vague) into an actionable problem that can be analyzed. All problems come down, one way or another, to SQDCM (Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, Morale). How can we identify a gap (between the way things are and the way we need or want them to be) that we can analyze?Furthermore, as you know, we try to never jump to conclusions, to solutions. That understanding is quite widespread now in the Lean Community, in theory if not practice. What is less understood is that, not only do More »
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