A3 Problem Solving Approach

What is the A3 problem-solving methodology?

The A3 is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement approach/methodology.

Used extensively by organisations implementing an Operational Excellence strategy within their business, It is based upon the principles of Deming’s PDCA cycle. (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

It can be used by large or small businesses alike and can be extremely useful for communicating business objectives or plans to all employees and stakeholders in the organisation, explaining their part in the strategy.

Who created the A3 approach? 

The A3 is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement approach which was originally developed by The Toyota Motor Co.

a3 problem solving scale

It is called an A3 due to the fact that this was the size of the paper originally used to draw up A3’s. It was the largest format of paper that could be communicated electronically at the time (by facsimile machine).

Whats involved?

A3 problem-solving consists of four sections or quadrants:-

  1. Business Case – provides the data and rationale for the project – Why it is being done and benefits to the organization. 
  2. Current Condition – shows what the current situation looks like. Based upon facts and data, this quadrant uses various media to make the situation highly visible. These can include sketches, diagrams, data and charts.
  3. Target Condition – Shows what state we wish to reach once the project is implemented. It should communicate what tangible benefits shall be obtained upon completion of the project or eradication of the problem. Utilises sketches, diagrams, charts and data to show what the process will look like outlining projected results from the change.
  4. Plan – Shows the steps needed to reach the target condition and timescales involved – It should show due dates, timings of actions along with the names of the people who are responsible to carry such actions out. Utilizes Gantt Charts, Critical Paths, milestones etc. Records progress and outlines and aligns responsibilities for action.  Very often this section of the A3 is in GANNT chart format and should be dynamic. Actions should be signed off as they are completed.

In addition to the action plan, there should be a chart detailing the measures that shall be in place to determine that the target condition has been achieved and that the Action Plan can be closed.

a3 project example consisting of four secions

What happens next?

After completion, the Project A3’s should be signed off as complete. It should be noted that an A3 may “spawn” several sub-A3’s during the life of a project or during the eradication of a problem.

Why use this in your organisation?

  • To articulate and communicate the overall business strategy (Strategic A3)
  • Address the root cause of a problem. (Problem Solving A3)
  • Pursue an unmet business goal or direction .(Process Improvement A3)
  • Pursue new business goals or opportunities. (Development A3)
  • Control the implementation of new projects.

(The list is not exhaustive – differing types of A3 exist but the examples shown here are basic A3 format)

What are the benefits of using A3 Problem Solving Approach? 

  • Provides a visual, dynamic communication tool that enables everyone in the business to understand and participate in the business strategy.
  • Communicates why a project is undertaken by explaining the business case or rationale behind its adoption.
  • Provides a structured, standardized approach.
  • Utilizes pictures, charts and diagrams to show conditions and plans.
  • Dynamic in nature, is up-dated as the project is implemented.
  • Based upon fact and data.
  • Provides a tracking tool to check implementation progress against the plan.
  • Simple to use and understand.
  • Allows a project to be articulated on a single page.

8 step approach to A3 strategy

By using our step by step approach, you can implement A3 strategy into your business. Below is our recommended approach.

  1. Decide upon type of A3 required (Strategic, Problem solving etc)
  2. Assign responsibility for A3 construction and ownership.
  3. Collect data to create the Business Case (Quadrant 1)
  4. Carry out careful observation of Current Condition and complete Current Condition (Quadrant 2)
  5. Carry out analysis of Current Condition and Create Target Condition complete Current Condition. (Quadrant 3)
  6. Create an implementation plan with timescales and milestones. Assign responsibilities for A3 / Project execution. Complete Plan (Quadrant 4)
  7. Execute A3 / Project plan. Carry out regular progress meetings and up-date A3 plan to ensure that the A3 is current.
  8. Upon reaching Target Condition – review A3 and close out as complete. File for reference.

How to implement within your business strategy?

Keith Hoey and Associates can assist you in the implementation of A3 methodology as part of your Operational Excellence strategy by:-

  • Providing training and education packages designed to equip your organization needed to deploy A3 methodologies. 
  • Assist you in making A3 ‘s a key factor in communicating Operational Excellence activities within the business.
  • Help design and deploy “Pilot” A3’s within your business to show the effectiveness of the A3 whilst at the same time providing real, tangible improvements to the business.  

Should you wish to learn more about A3’s contact us at Keith Hoey and Associates Limited on 07891068883 or by e-mail to info@keithhoeyandassociates.co.uk 

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