Monday, November 15, 2010

How many different types of A3's are there?

So what do you think about when you hear the term A3? I can remember back when I first started at TMMK (Toyota Motor Manuf. KY) in 1988 there were no computers or printers on the shop floor or offices. The term A3 was new to many of us; at least me. For a while I tried to figure out exactly what it meant the "A" the "3"? Finally my Japanese trainer explained it was just the size of paper. I remember being a little disappointed, I thought I was going to learn something very technical, little did I know . (grin)!

In my experience the majority of A3's that I completed were "Problem Solving" type A3's. That is where there is a quantifiable GAP in between "what should be happening", and "what is currently happening". On the production floor we gained a lot of experience with these types. I sooned realized after moving in leadership roles/management that other types of A3's existed as well. Today I will briefly describe the 4 different types of A3's and when to use them based on my experience.

• Problem Solving A3
• Proposal A3
• Status Report A3
• Strategic Planning A3

All A3’s should follow the PDCA thinking regardless of which type you are working on. The basic steps of (Plan-Do-Check Action) are:
• Make a Plan (Grasp the Situation) (Where you are versus where you want to be)
• Put it into Action/Implement (Do it)
• Check for Effectiveness (Modify if necessary)
• Reflect/Standardize and Share

Let’s take a look at each one and when can use them.

Problem Solving A3 – Please see my last blog regarding “When to use an A3”. I explain in detail the 4 Levels of Problems and when a Problem Solving A3 should be used. **Note – Not all problems will need an A3. The Problem Solving A3 will follow the 8 Step Problem Solving process (PDCA). They should always be quantified and measured, stating a clear Gap to solve. These are “caused gap” problems—meaning that we aren’t able to maintain a standard or ideal situation. Root Cause is not always apparent and a complete investigation at the GEMBA engaging people will be necessary.

Other types are:

Proposal A3 - A proposal A3 will be future state oriented, (where you want to be) in that you are trying to improve the situation by suggesting an idea. This is an improvement that is normally more focused in an area or department which supports the improvement of an indicator (KPI- Key Performance Indicator-ie. Quality, Safety, Productivity, Cost). The Strategy A3 is very similar but is normally focused more on Value streams and higher level processes related to the Company Business plan. You will start out by explaining the current state or background and why it needs to be improved. Is the current state affecting a KPI for the company? You may show some benefit analysis for the idea, then recommend how you will implement the idea with timelines and milestones. After the implementation begins you should evaluate effectiveness and have a follow up plan to ensure it’s sustainable. This is often called a “Created Gap”. You are trying to potentially “raise the bar” or improve the situation or standard.

Status Report A3 - A Status report A3 can be a specific report that is in direct relationship to a long-term type project that may need a progress report on a weekly, monthly or quarterly type basis. It may show a “plan” vs. “actual” status based on what the implementation plan/project expectations are. Depending upon the status you could be asked to develop a short term plan to get yourself back on the expected schedule if you fall short of a deadline. This particular A3 I did not use too often, but when I did it was normally focused on a product or model change that takes long term thinking/ planning to ensure success at the projects end date/line off. (For example – training, equipment, parts, processes, and manpower needs). If you follow the PDCA thinking it’s about asking the question at specific intervals – Where we are, and where we want to be.

Strategy A3 - A Strategy A3 is normally focused on the Company Hoshin (Business Plan/Strategy) from 1 to 3 to 5 and even 10 to 15 years out. My experience was mainly around the 1, 3 and 5 year planning. The Strategy and Proposal type A3 are very similar in nature as I stated before, the Proposal is more narrowly focused. It’s attempting to take the company from a current state to a future state and this is normally based on what the Business Indicators are telling us that needs to happen. These A3’s are normally a higher level A3 at a high level of leadership which could be a value stream between product and delivery that needs improvement. This is then cascaded downward throughout all the levels of the Organization and they are asked to focus their daily work towards improving the indicator. For example I may have excessive warranty claims, and I want to reduce these warranty claim through improving the quality of the product produced by X%. So this is a high level goal that needs to be tracked through the involvement and progress of the cascade at each level (daily work). Again each type of A3 should follow the PDCA thinking. This too can be considered a “created gap” A3.

I hope this gives you a little more insight as to the different types of A3's that can be done to enhance your daily work and align your activities to the "need" of your company.
Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

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