Managing to Learn. Using the A3 management process to solve problems, gain agreement, mentor, and lead
The term A3 refers to a size of paper defined by ISO 216. For lean organizations, A3 is also a problem-solving and improvement tool as well as a management style and process.
The A3 report is a standardized form for describing a problem on a single sheet of paper. The report communicates both facts and meaning in a commonly understood format. It describes a story behind a particular issue and is guided by PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act), an iterative problem-solving process. The process guides dialogue and analysis of the issue by discovering answers to the following questions:
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- Who owns the problem?
- What are the current conditions?
- What are the root causes of the problems?
- What are the countermeasures?
- What is the implementation plan?
- How will we know if the countermeasures work?
- How will we capture and share the learning?
In John Shook's book "Managing to Learn", you will find an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of A3 analysis as well as easy-to-understand examples on how to apply A3 thinking to improve problem solving, decision making, and communication in business organizations. John also explains the underlying learning process for developing talent and touches on how A3 enables the right decision at the right time. This capability of A3 helps lean organizations operate pull-based authority (aka, kanban democracy), where authority is pulled where it is needed and when it is needed: on-demand, just-in-time.
The book is organized around two story lines running in parallel. The first story line reveals the thoughts and actions of Desi Porter, a young manager who gradually discovers the meaning of the A3 process. The second story line describes the thoughts and actions of Ken Sanderson, Desi's supervisor who mentors Desi Porter in a structured problem-solving approach. While Desi is primarily concerned about his project of improving the document translation process in the company, Ken needs Desi and his other direct reports to master A3 thinking.
The book is both thoughtful and entertaining. I highly recommend it. If you are interested in learning more about the A3 management process, this book is for you.
To order this book from Lean.org, click here. Happy reading!