The A3 Problem-Solving Process

One of the most effective problem-solving approaches used by Toyota is the A3 report. "A3" is actually a paper size (11" x 17") that was used at Toyota to keep problem-solving documentation consistent, structured, and clear.

I recently spoke with
Daniel D. Matthews, who spent 14 years as trainer, coach, and implementer of Lean Manufacturing at Toyota and recently published a book titled The A3 Workbook: Unlock Your Problem-Solving Mind. I asked Dan: "What would you say is the biggest mistake people make when trying to solve problems and how can the A3 problem-solving process help?"

Here is his complete response:

"The one mistake that is consistent from class to class is that participants jump to potential causes or even countermeasures before they fully understand the characteristics of the problem.

My first step is to coach them to ignore their natural inclination to take some kind of action. In the A3 problem-solving process, you are encouraged to delay acting on the problem until you have stated it clearly and precisely.

It is critical that you identify the facts that explain what is actually occurring and try to make your first 'sense' of the problem more specific. To do this, you must remove the subjectivity and replace it with facts.

To accurately depict the current situation, it is important to look at existing data related to the situation. Make sure that you go and see the situation for yourself; don’t rely on others to provide you with the information you need.

The data you gather will also help you later in the process when you have to break the problem down. To truly understand the problem, you must break it down into specific characteristics. The key to solving any problem is to follow the process and let the facts lead you instead of acting on your opinions and feelings."

Are you using A3 reports to solve problems? Do they hasten the path to the root cause?


Chris said...

We use the A3 and 8D processes very effectively in our organization. Our staff routinely identify and realize opportunities to improve our business. This gives us the competitive edge.

We started using a paper driven automotive A3/8D system. Now we use a free A3 software package (CAPA Manager): www.adaptivebms.com



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