As John Shook originally stated, “A3s are deceptively simple” . . . and that’s the whole point!
A3 Problem Solving: What is an A3?
An A3 is simply a single sheet of paper with a sequence of blank sections on which a learner documents their problem solving efforts. Typically the document will feature spaces for the problem solver to communicate the following information about the problem they are solving:
- Context and impact of the problem
- Statement and breakdown of the problem
- Objectives and desired outcomes
- Assessment of root cause
- Development of countermeasures
- Plan to test, verify and take action.
- Follow-up and control
The “tool” itself is simple, but don’t let that deceive you. The value and the emphasis of the A3 process is intended to be placed on the thinking that goes into the creation of the documents, which is difficult. A3 problem solving provides a powerful method for problem solvers to transform their knowledge from tacit to explicit, making it visible to others. As a result, mentors review the document frequently with the learner during the problem solving process, ultimately resulting in better countermeasures, development of the learner’s thinking / skills, and on a broader scale, problem solving / improvement as a core competency within an organization.
A3 Problem Solving: Tips and Best Practices
A3 Problem Solving: Free A3 Templates
Click on the images or links above to download your free A3 problem solving templates. The A3 report template for kids makes for a great parenting tool and can help your children develop their problem solving skills. Feel free to use or share, but please do not modify.
A3 Problem Solving: Examples
Above are a few examples of completed A3 problem solving reports from the Leanable Moments series, which show how I apply lean thinking and A3 problem solving to my home and family life. Click the links to read the full post.
The Best in A3 Problem Solving Books
The A3 problem solving movement gained widespread notariety in 2008 with the publications of Understanding A3 Thinking and Managing to Learn. Since then, a few additional texts on A3 problem solving have been penned, but the two classics are still the best resources available. Personally, I give Understanding A3 Thinking the slight nod for its breadth and for the diversity of its examples.