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A-3: Managing to Learn

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Using A3 management process to solve problems, gain agreements, mentor and lead

What is A-3?

Communication Tool used for Planning and Reporting companywide Kaizen effort.  Part of Toyota’s Quality Circle problem solving efforts in the 1960s. It allowed the teams to get the most important information on one sheet of paper to easily read, understand and make decisions. It enables everyone in organization touching the issue to see through same lens.

Why A-3?

The answer is that when most of the organizations start Kaizen/Lean implementation, they  jump to the tools directly. Very few follow the logical sequence or the process of implementing Kaizen/Lean. Kaizen/Lean components are incomplete and ineffective without the support of a developing Kaizen/Lean culture. A-3 is one of the processes that help to plan and report the effort taken by the organization. It acts as a problem solver and helps to develop people before products.

There is no “magic” in the steps through which the structured A3 Problem Solving template takes a team. These steps are basically:

  1. Identify the problem or need
  2. Understand the current situation/state
  3. Develop the goal statement – develop the target state
  4. Perform root cause analysis
  5. Brainstorm/determine countermeasures
  6. Create a countermeasures implementation plan
  7. Check results – confirm the effect
  8. Update standard work

These steps follow the Deming Plant-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, with steps 1 through 5 being the ”Plan”, Step 6 being the “Do”, Step 7 being the “Check” and Step 8 being the “Act”. (Source: www.reliableplant.com)

UNDERSTANDING A3 STRUCTURE: Grasp the situation….Go to the Gemba

Create ownership of A-3

  • A3 to have initial and date
  • Owner name
  • Clear indication of responsibility is VERY important
  • Draft date , continually improve

Ask what is the Business context? How did you decide to tackle the problem?

Title should describe specific problem being addressed and answer. “What does the A3 owner want to talk about, to purpose?”

How to decide the title? By going to Gemba and asking questions. Reflect on What problem really is? Why  it is important and How does it tie to what we are trying to achieve. Right Title forces to think & define real problem. Confirm Title by asking “is this the issue”. Ask What do you know and How do you know it?

  • Understand problem on the Gemba.
  • Gather and verify facts – not just data.
  • Engage all concerned people
  • Check actual business issue is being felt from the way problem is defined?

ImageWhat’s the problem?

Lots of Time and Energy is spent debating, exploring and trying out solutions. But how often time is spent to understand what the problem really is? Problem is something that presents barrier in achieving organization goals. A problem in the work is any deviation from standard work


Avoid jumping to solutions in order to be quick and right. Avoid telling people exactly what to do. When you tell them you take the responsibility away. Biggest error- appearing to know something without having precise knowledge.

UNDERSTANDING A3 STRUCTURE: Goals and analysis – finding Root Cause


Set attainable targets / goals after deeply understanding problems on Gemba and feedback from customer processes. View Problems as gaps between current conditions and targets.


Breakdown the problem using 5 why analysis & other analysis (fish bone, pareto) depending on complexity of the problem

– Keep asking why even when you think you have uncovered the problem
– Objective is not to ask why 5 times but to drive thinking to the root cause
– 5 Why analysis prevents waste of debating 5 who analysis
– Respect for humanity is most important

ImageUNDERSTANDING A3 STRUCTURE: Proposed countermeasures  – Set-Based Decision Making…



  • Justify why proposed actions are necessary
  • Keep going to gemba to gather new information and countermeasures

UNDERSTANDING A3 STRUCTURE: Plan and follow up – Pull based authority

ImageIdentify follow up procedures

UNDERSTANDING A3 STRUCTURE: Developing A3 thinkers






Getting Started



Do’s and Don’ts




Author: Kaizen Institute - India!

Kaizen Institute – India is part of the Global Kaizen Institute operations. Kaizen Institute was established by Sensei Masaaki Imai, the GURU of Kaizen. He wrote the 1st book 28 yrs ago and that is when it all started . We operate in 30+ countries today and have over 400+ coaches helping more then 600 organizations Learn, Apply, Sustain – Kaizen/ Operational Excellence. In India we have two physical offices – Pune & Ahmedabad and 27 coaches in all.

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