Helping Make A3 Work, Part 3
I am continuing on with more Q&A about the problem solving process of A3, popularized through the use at Toyota and an effective coaching and development tool. So onto the questions.
Q5. What is the best way to start?
I think it is best to start on a problem that you have no other means to solve, except perhaps winging it. The reason for this is that if you have other methods you would use to solve that problem, it will be easier to slip back into those methods than it will be to stick with the learning curve associated with any new method. You want to ensure you get through the process. Many people that have a tool box of problem solving skills can’t apply those, at least not well, to every issue and problem they have on their plate. Because of this, organizational or personal issues often become good starting points because the use of other problem solving tools is weaker for such problems. It is also better to start working with a partner than individually or with a team. With a team you need to facilitate often and, if you are just learning, then having to facilitate does not allow for a lot of learning. And individually you get no feedback. It’s easier to learn while talking it out and, unless you’re good at talking to yourself, having a partner is a great help.
Q6. Do I have to give up my other problem solving skills and tools?
Absolutely not. Because A3 is so broad and flexible, it is more like a container for your problem solving efforts than a specific or precise method. If you use any problem solving method – fishbone diagrams, TRIZ, Six Sigma DMAIC, 5 whys, Kepner Tregoe, 8D, etc. – it can still fit within the underlying thought process of A3 and the report writing aspect of A3. The key in this fit, for example, is that whatever means you used to get to root cause, being able to clearly and succinctly communicate that through the current reality section of the A3 is important.
Q7. What are the 3 biggest mistakes made in using A3?
The most common mistake is treating the A3 as a form, instead of a process. The form has no magic in it. When we focus on the template, we solve problems the same way we always have, and then try to fill out the form after the fact. Not only does this not improve our problem solving capabilities, but actually creates waste. The second mistake is using the process linearly, going from A to B. Do it in pencil, both literally and figuratively. Be willing to redo your work. As you go forward in your process you should be learning, which means you should be going back to modify based on your learnings. In my coaching, I find that half of the time we need to rework the original problem statement. And third, this is often a much better collaborative process than a solo one. Engage people, get input, develop high agreement, and move forward as a team.
If you like this, I’ll be hosting a webinar on A3 on December 15th through SME. Sign up here and come participate in the discussion. There will be room for chat and poll questions so come and see how we engage.