Management veteran John Shook notes that A3 thinking forms an integral part of any lean production process geared towards reducing waste and maximizing profits. Therefore, an A3 report should be written keenly and professionally though this might not be easy given that the report presented on the 11 by 17 inches sheet of paper should be the driving force behind finding the most pressing issue of the day in your company. Coming up with a relevant and innovative A3 thinking report depends on your ability to spot the pitfalls and avoid them. An A3 report strives to provide useful feedback in the search for solutions to your production line’s challenges. According to Montana State University’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Associate Professor, Sobek Durward, some look at an A3 report as a documentation apparatus. Others fill it with personal opinions and not the company’s collaborative ideology. In his book, Understanding A3 Thinking, Sobek adds that an A3 report should not comprise of narratives in prose or poetry. Present the information graphically for you to be able to say more and make clear analysis of the situation. This means that you should not treat an A3 report like a form as this kind of mentality has made many forget that an A3 report is part of a continuous improvement process and the lifeblood of your company’s stream of ideas. Avoid filling an A3 report using a ball pen. This makes it difficult to go back and neatly change the information as per the day’s new developments. Use a pencil. Make the process collaborative to build team spirit and avoid making final decisions. Instead, address issues such as the importance of solving the problem in the report, identify the source of the problem and appropriate actions to be followed up in the bid to eliminate production hurdles and improve efficiency.
How to identify the opportunities for improvement in a business organization? Accelerated efficiency will become a reality with A3 thinking and it can be described as a continual improvement program. A company culture where the main focus will be improvement and change is the essence of A3 thinking and the efficiency to prosper will undergo tremendous amount of transformation with this method.
A3 thinking will focus on logical thinking process at its best and this method will give great importance in presenting the information available in an impartial manner. Critical information will be given the best attention in A3 thinking and this information will be shared as well. The strategies and goals will be aligned well with effort and a steady approach will be maintained throughout the organization as well. So this method can be described as a strong and effective problem solving process.
Deming is the architect behind the management philosophy known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) and A3 thinking clearly supports this philosophy. The ‘Plan’ section of A3 thinking involves the task of defining the objectives and processes in the best manner to bring out the expected results and the ‘Do’ category will involve the process of implementing the plan and executing the process. All data will be collected and measured during this phase as well. Analysis and study of the actual results (collected during ‘Do’ stage) will be conducted to find out the real difference between the expected results and actual results during the ‘Check’ stage.
During the ‘Act’ phase, the difference between the actual results and expected results will be dealt with by requesting corrective measures and a deep analysis will be made to identify the root causes of the difference between the planned and actual results. This method always promotes objective approach to arrive at the conclusions and a huge number of people consider A3 thinking as an extremely powerful problem solving method.
A3 Report, or simply a one-pager, is a single page report which is used mainly to document important information that is required for reporting progress and for decision making purposes in any business.
Writing A3 reports is a very easy and quick way of noting down all the necessary and important information and to simplify project reporting which is formed from detailed data, figures and reports. This provides a condensed version of the detailed report for an overview. Information is usually communicated with the help of charts, graphs and bullet points.
Toyota Motor Company gave this type of report the name A3, which refers to a page size metric of which the report is made. Its size is equivalent to a paper of size 11 inches x 17 inches.
The actual format of A3 report depends on the type of report and on the information that is to be presented according to the situation. The general format of A3 report is:
- Background: A brief description of the problem whose solution is to be discussed and its importance in the company and the measures used to overcome the problem.
- Current problem and situation: It gives a graphical presentation of the problem that is to be discussed.
- Root-cause analysis: Information about the analysis performed to find out the root cause of the problem.
- Goal: Another graphical presentation of the situation which will prevent the problem to occur. It can also be a solution to the problem depending on the requirement of the report.
- Recommendations: Providing all possible solutions to overcome the problem.
- Plan of Implementation: The plan of implementing the solution includes every detail of start-up date, tasks, responsibilities, duration and completion date.
- Result Check Report: To check the progress of the implemented solution.
- Follow up: To see whether all the benefits of implementing a specified solution are achieved and maintained or not.