Collaboration by Leveraging Better Problem Solving
Toyota Motor Corporation is famed for its ability to relentlessly improve operational performance. Central to this ability is the training of engineers, supervisors and managers in a structured problem-solving approach that uses a tool called the A3 Problem-Solving Report – that facilitates and improves knowledge sharing and collaboration.
The term “A3″ derives from the paper size used for the report, which is the metric equivalent to 11″ x 17″ (or B-sized) paper. Toyota actually uses several styles of A3 reports–for solving problems, for reporting project status, and for proposing policy changes–each having its own “storyline.”
The A3 Report is one of the most powerful tools in the lean toolset. Although it looks pretty simple, it is one of the most effective means of pulling together many of the tools used in problem solving and reporting. You can’t go wrong by learning how to use this tool and then implementing it within your organization.
The purpose of the A3 Report is to:
- Document the learning, decisions, and planning involved with solving a problem,
- Facilitate communication with people in other departments, and
- Provide structure to problem-solving so as to maximize learning.
Why use the A3 Report?
Most problems that arise in organizations are addressed in superficial ways. That is, we work around the problem to accomplish our immediate objective, but do not address the root causes of the problem so as to prevent its recurrence. By not addressing the root cause, we encounter the same problem or same type of problem again and again, and operational performance does not improve.
The A3 Process helps people engage in collaborative, in-depth problem-solving. It drives problem-solvers to address the root causes of problems which surface in day-to-day work routines. The A3 Process can be used for almost any situation, and our research has found that, when used properly (i.e., all of the steps are followed and completed), the chances of success improve dramatically.
An A3 does not work in isolation. It is just as much a team building exercise as it is a problem solving tool. The A3 document facilitates a way for you to share knowledge and solve a problem. When completed it is not something to be filed away and “closed” out. Utilizing your A3s in your organization has tremendous value. The use of one format for problem solving, reports, proposals and knowledge creation allows for others to work on the content, not the document. You will minimize the learning curve substantially. And share knowledge in your organization
*** To learn more about this powerful problem-solving methodology: