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Managing To Learn in Sloan Management Review

John Shook
7/7/2009
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You will want to read two articles in the current issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review.

My article (Toyota's Secret: The A3 Report) is a simple summary of Managing To Learn, summarized as well as I could in only four pages, only about a page of which is text. (Forgive the title – publisher's prerogative …) SMR editor-in-chief Michael Hopkins introduces MTL:

"In his book Managing to Learn, John Shook deconstructs the problem-solving journey of one manager and his mentor, and the management mechanism that guided them. The backstory? Shook knows the journey firsthand."
But, more interesting than my piece is Hopkins' own article, "Problem-Solving by Design." Hopkins does a fantastic job of putting the A3 process into contemporary management context, while introducing MTL to a broader audience. As Hopkins says:

“The A3's potency as a management mechanism is one reason that it, and Shook's book, deserve greater attention. (The single-sheet-produces-rigorous-selectivity effect is only the most obvious of the ways that it does its work.) Another reason is that mechanisms in general are scandalously underutilized by managers. Mechanisms are about process. Great mechanisms are about process brilliantly understood. We still live in a management-by-objective world, even if we don't call it that anymore. Think MBO is dead? Just recall your last annual review, your last strategic plan, your last budget. Consider how many managers are given a "number" and told to hit it, how many organizations still function by intent and directive — increase sales, grow Web traffic, improve margin."

Links are below. You will probably need to register with Sloan Management Review, but it's free, easy, and quick.

I'm already finding the links useful in providing help to people who need a quick overview of the A3 process.

Toyota's Secret: The A3 Report
By John Shook
http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/articles/2009/summer/50408/toyota%E2%80%99s-secret-the-a3-report/

Problem Solving By Design
By Michael S. Hopkins
http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/articles/2009/summer/50401/problem-solving-by-design/

John

John Shook
Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.

2 Comments | Post a Comment
Ralf Lippold August 11, 2009
Hi John,

Just got the paper edition of MIT Sloan Management Review (always a fest:-)) and stepped right into your article.

Nicely written:-)

Would be a cool thing to share such A3-stories openly on web. What is your impression?
Tom Jackson October 1, 2009
Loved your book. I recommend it to all my clients. FYI: The economic reasoning behind the power of the A3 is that the A3 solves the problem of how to effectively program Toyota's massively parallel computer. A3s help factor or break down the big problem into chunks small enough for middle as well as senior managers to tackle effectively. The catchball process ensures good communication among all the "information processors," i.e. decision makers. Meanwhile, hoshin kanri (of which the A3 is but a part) ensures good synchronization among the "information processors." The net result is an amazing orders-of-magnitude speedup in organizational learning. This is the real reason, not finance, that GM bit the dust. At Toyota, anyway, hoshin kanri/profit management is a financial management system, just a better one--much better--than management accounting, which GM's genius Sloan invented. Tom Jackson