Identify the advantages of using A3s to reach sustainable solutions. In this video, discover how to grasp the effectiveness of this methodology.
- Have you ever wondered how some organizations continue to amaze their customers and maintain a healthy position in the market? When I look into such cases, I typically find that these organizations have an attitude of continuous improvement and a solid process for solving problems. That is what the A3 systemic problem-solving methodology is designed to do. The A3 problem-solving method gets its name from the size paper, just about 11 by 17 inches, used to manually capture and illustrate the issue that needs to be resolved. It follows a plan, do, check, act cycle, sometimes referring to as a Deming Cycle after W. Edwards Deming, a statistician who became a leading figure in the total quality movement. Toyota, the car manufacturer, further developed the idea into this A3 process. A3 is effective because it's a customer-focused approach, making customer satisfaction the focus for solving any problem. It centers on process improvement and involves cross-functional teams to solve problems, which is key for complex problems that can't be solved by only one area in the organization. In addition, the A3 methodology uses data and facts for analysis of a problem, and the whole organization learns how to avoid mistakes and discovers uncharted territory. While there's an absolute standard for the total steps in an A3, based on my experience, I use this eight-step worksheet because it has helped guide the teams I've worked with to achieve real improvements. Let's look at each step in more detail. Step one, define the problem clearly and show how it's impacting your customer and your organization. For example, state the gap between what should be normal and what's happening. Step two, metrics, current state. Measure the size of the problem. Gather data that will provide an objective way to describe the problem. Step three, metrics, desired state. Define your desired situation. State in a measurable way what the situation should look like after you've taken actions to improve it. Step four, identify contributing causes. Problems typically don't happen because of one thing, so look for all possible contributing causes. Step five, brainstorm potential countermeasures. Brainstorm any actions that can help counter the problem and reduce its impact on your customer and your organization. Step six, agree on an action plan. Get a commitment on who is going to do what by when. Step seven, compare results against plans. After all actions have been taken, measure the situation again and check to see if improvements were made. And step eight, share lessons learned. Define with the team if further improvement is needed on the problem and share the lessons with the rest of your organization. Wouldn't it be great if you had a ready-made process to solve problems? Next time you encounter a problem in your organization, give the A3 process a try, and you'll be on your way to achieving real improvements and closer to becoming a learning organization.