Are Electronic Networks the New A3s?

I recently read this short article titled Lean Project Ideas by Dan Antony, which appeared on ehow.com. The article reviews basic concepts as defining value streams, identifying waste, kaizen events, and automation. The section that specifically caught my attention advises to "implement social media" -- that is, using electronic tools to share and illustrate improvement ideas throughout the company and worldwide locations. For example, Siemens has established an internal blog so employees can share benefits worldwide almost instantaneously while Microsoft is encouraging its employees to use podcasts to proliferate ideas throughout the organization.

A3 reports have used by Toyota for decades to document improvements, and this problem-solving tool has gained much popularity and use in the US during the past few years. A3s were named after the size of paper used to document a particular solution -- but it's the concept, and the thinking behind it, that holds the real power. Are electronic networks the next logical step in the evolution of A3s?


Daniel said...

As a planning tool, many will prefer to use the A3 process with old fashioned pencil and paper. Hand drawing engages your creative mind in ways that still lag in software.

For story telling, I think the electronic A3 makes sense. It can be a polished and concise description of the background and plan in a highly visual format.

We'll need to be flexible about the "format" though - without the constraints of dimensional paper, A3 can take on a linear, vertical, slide-based, animated or even hyperlinked flow.

Dean Bliss said...

Certainly social networking can be a piece of the puzzle as we communicate improvements and problem-solving, but there are many instances where people are not continuously online (such as nursing units) where the traditional A3 is still the tool of choice. I think, though, that we need to explore all avenues of communication as technology (and access to technology) improves.

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