An A3 Report is a Toyota-pioneered practice of getting the problem, the analysis, the corrective actions, and the action plan down on a single sheet of large (A3) paper, often with the use of graphics. At Toyota, A3 reports have evolved into a standard method for summarizing problem-solving exercises, status reports, and planning exercises like value-stream mapping.
But it is much more than a sheet a paper with facts and figures. It is a management process learned through dialogue about concrete problems. It does this by means of a dialogue between a lean manager and a subordinate who learns lean management and leadership as she solves an important problem.
This process of solving problems while creating better employees—A3 analysis—is core to the Toyota management system. An A3 report guides the dialogue and analysis. It identifies the current situation, the nature of the issue, the range of possible counter- measures, the best countermeasure, the means (who will do what when) to put it into practice, and the evidence that the issue has actually been addressed.
The lean leader’s job is to develop people. If the worker hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.Training Within Industry Report (Washington, DC: War Manpower Commission, Bureau of Training, 1945).
Effective use of the A3 process can facilitate the shift from a debate about who owns what (an authority-focused debate) to a dialogue around what is the right thing to do (a responsibility-focused conversation). This shift has a radical impact on the way decisions are made. Individuals earn the authority to take action through the manner in which they frame the issue. They form consensus and get decisions made by focusing relentlessly on indisputable facts that they and their peers derive from the gemba.
As a result, A3 management can best be understood as neither “top-down” nor “bottom-up.” The process clarifies responsibility by placing ownership squarely on the shoulders of the author-owner of the A3, the individual whose initials appear in the upper right-hand corner of the paper. This person may not have direct authority over every aspect of the proposal. Yet this owner is clearly identified as the person who has taken or accepted responsibility to get decisions made and implemented.
When asked “where do I start to write my A3,” David Verble responds “don’t start by writing.” His piece, the first in a series about getting started, offers lessons he has learned about the nature of thinking, and a productive way to start the A3 by recognzing it as a thinking process.
When asked “where do I start to write my A3,” David Verble responds “don’t start by writing.” His piece, the first in a series about getting started, offers lessons he has learned about the nature of thinking, and a productive way to start by recognizing it as a thinking process.