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Understanding A3 Thinking

A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System

Durward K. Sobek II, Art Smalley

Publisher: CRC, 2008 , 165 pages

ISBN: 1-56327-360-8

Keywords: Lean


Toggle Synopsis

When talking to executives inside Toyota, you discover that a relentless dedication to continuous improvement is what gives them their greatest competitive advantage. To this end, the principle of PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act, is engrained throughout their corporate culture. Just as engrained, and equally valuable, is the flexible, yet precise, reporting system, which is married to the process. All about efficiency, every report must be confined to one side of an A3 (11 x 17-inch) sheet of paper; hence, the report is known as the A3.

Aptly entitled Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System, this work emphasizes the discipline required to generate such a report. Relying upon their extensive experience with Toyota, the authors cover everything needed to execute a rigorous reporting system. Demonstrating the powerful set of dynamics that is referred to as A3 Thinking, they —

  • Provide examples, templates, and exercises that encourage learning through doing.
  • Include practical advice on how to write and review A3 reports.
  • Offer insights drawn from their experience in Japan, as well as unique lessons learned from implementing the system in the U.S.

A3 is not about generating more paperwork, but is all about creating a process and a mindset that are uncompromising in their dedication to improvement. Diligently applying the processes, thinking, and tools described in these pages will dramatically improve the effectiveness of those individuals involved, and when spread through an organization, will quickly result in a culture of genuine improvement. While this system grew out of automotive manufacturing, it is proven to be broadly applicable to almost any management system.


Table of Contents:

Toggle Table of Contents

  1. A Basis for Managerial Effectiveness
    • PDCA: Heart of the Toyota Way
    • What Don’t We Get?
    • A System to Support PDCA Management
    • Endnotes
  2. A3 Thinking
    • Seven Elements of A3 Thinking
      • Element 1 : Logical Thinking Process
      • Element 2: Objectivity
      • Element 3: Results and Process
      • Element 4: Synthesis, Distillation, and Visualization
      • Element 5: Alignment
      • Element 6: Coherency within and Consistency Across
      • Element 7: Systems Viewpoint
    • Practical Problem Solving
      • Grasping the Current Situation
      • Identifying the Root Cause
      • Devising Countermeasures and Visualizing the Future State
      • Creating an Implementation Plan
      • Creating a Follow-up Plan
      • Discussing with Affected Parties
      • Obtaining Approval
      • Executing the Implementation and Follow-up Plans
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  3. The Problem-Solving A3 Report
    • Storyline of the Problem-Solving A3
      • Theme
      • Background
      • Current Condition and Problem Statement
      • Goal Statement
      • Root-Cause Analysis
      • Countermeasures
      • Check/Confirmation of Effect
      • Follow-up Actions
      • Total Effect
    • Reviewing Problem-solving A3s
    • Your Turn
      • Part : Write an A3
      • Part : Critique Your A3
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  4. The Proposal A3 Report
    • Storyline of the Proposal A3
      • Theme
      • Background
      • Current Condition
      • Analysis and Proposal
      • Plan Details
      • Unresolved Issues (Optional)
      • Implementation Schedule
      • Total Effect
    • Proposal A3 Example 
    • Proposal A3 Example 
    • Reviewing Proposal A3s
      • Discuss with Peer Group or Advisor
      • Discuss with Affected Parties
      • Obtain Approval
    • Your Turn
      • Part : Write a Proposal A3
      • Part : Review Your A3
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  5. The Status A3 Report
    • Storyline of the Status A3
      • Theme
      • Background
      • Current Condition
      • Results
      • Unresolved Issues/Follow-up Actions
      • Total Effect
    • Status A3 Example
    • Discuss with a Peer Group or Advisor
    • Your Turn
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  6. Notes on Form and Style
    • Form
    • Style
    • Graphics
      • Understand Your Data
      • Use the Best Graph for the Data
      • Label Properly
      • Use as Little Ink as Possible
      • Let the Graphic Talk
    • Tables
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  7. Supporting Structures
    • Standard Templates
    • Where to Start
    • Handwritten versus Computer-Generated A3s
    • Coaching
    • Approval
    • Storage and Retrieval
    • Summary
    • Endnotes
  8. Conclusion
    • PDCA and Managerial Effectiveness
    • A3 Thinking
    • Three Main Types
    • Form and Style
    • Final Advice
    • Endnotes
  • About the Authors
  • Appendix A “Reducing Bill Drop Time” Problem-Solving A3 Report
  • Appendix B “Practical Problem Solving” Proposal A3 Report


Understanding A3 Thinking

by Roland Buresund last modified 2010-05-19 23:35

Rating: ******** (Very good)

At long last, a book that describes the A3 thinking in Lean and links it clearly to PDCA. It is not a very long book, but every page counts, in this well-written masterpiece.

Granted, you need to understand the basics of Lean and PDCA, but otherwise, it is very comprehensive. A valuable book in any management library, regardless if you're a Lean adherent or not.

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