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Who Owns Your A3? (Part Two)

Reich, Mark

People often speak of "socializing" an A3 – going to stakeholders and getting their buy-in. Actual practice is deeper than that.

Assuming that all stakeholders own the A3 is an equal or worse mistake than thinking that just one person owns it. The A3, when used as a development tool, allows the Manager and Team Member to engage in a dialogue that develops the capability of the Team Member, and, hopefully, also develops the content of the A3 for productive change in the organization. As the A3 is presented to various stakeholders this input strengthens and imparts power to the paper so to speak. So in some ways, it's an easy assumption that the organization owns it.

Let's look at it from the perspective of my Assistant Manager and his goal of encouraging my learning. For human development to occur, the Team Member must own the A3 as a means of continually developing two key abilities: 1) learning how to properly analyze a problem using facts and logic and 2) learning how to build consensus in the organization as to how and why this problem needs to be solved (while establishing there is value in the stakeholders investing their time and resources to help solve the problem). Particularly regarding the latter ability, the writer of the A3 must feel the passion and drive to solve the problem that others can see and want to support. This requires him/her to invest deeply in the creation of the A3 - to own the problem.

So back to my original A3 experience (see last week's column). After that initial meeting with my Assistant Manager, I reluctantly revised my A3. We met again and I continued to gather more input. Eventually we took this paper to our team and Group Manager and there was more input (more revisions). I rewrote that first A3 about 15 times. Content and appearance all changed dramatically during the succession of revisions. In the end, we cancelled subscriptions to many magazines we weren't using and established a clear process for analysis of the magazines we used. This saved us hundreds of dollars a year, but more importantly, we developed a standard process for our team regarding what magazines to analyze and what information to look for. This improved the efficiency of our process for prioritizing and providing key information to design for new models.

This lengthy process produced much more for me than a powerful plan that had clear benefits for our group. It revealed to me the value of understanding who owns an A3. When I started, I had many things wrong in my head. I thought it was only my problem to solve in the beginning. I abdicated ownership for the problem when I expected my supervisor to tell me the answer. And I had no perspective that this assignment was not a minor transactional request—but was in fact an opportunity for me to learn deeply about how to learn.

In the end, I guess this A3 was owned by me and also owned by the group I worked in. I developed capabilities through writing it, but the team also owned it because they bought into the content and put the proposed solutions into practice. This basic lesson continues to inform my work today. In the past 20 years, I've had the opportunity to write hundreds of A3s and each has been a learning experience for me on the subject I'm writing about and the human interaction required to make actionable results from the words on paper.

Take a moment and think about "Who owns your A3?"



Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
Eric Ethington; Ernie Richardson; Tracey Richardson; John Shook; David Verble