Chapter 3 - The A3 Problem Solving Report
© Durward Sobek and Art Smalley, All Rights Reserved
The idea of short written reports (as in
“briefs”) as a
business or organizational tool is not new.
However, it seems to have recently fallen out of favor,
with the advent of ubiquitous computing, information and modern
technology. We argue that A3 Report
style communications (and the commensurate problem-solving and thought
processes) are as important now as they have ever been.
The amount of information avail
A3 Reports have been gaining in popularity
of late. To our knowledge, this
was first publicized outside of
We turn our attention now to the most basic type of A3 Report, the problem-solving A3. We describe what actually gets documented on the A3 report during the course of the practical problem-solving process outlined in chapter 2, that is, the content and basic flow of the problem-solving A3. We illustrate it with a disguised example adapted from an observed client situation which helped resolve a problem. We then include a section on reviewing A3 Reports. This section is useful for peers, managers and mentors as they engage in A3 implementation, with hints on how to review A3 reports to provide substantive mentoring. It is also useful for A3 Report authors, as this section can serve as a self-check on one’s report. Finally, we provide readers the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned, by describing a case example for which readers are encouraged to draft an A3 Report. In subsequent chapters, we address common variations of A3 Reports, such as the proposal A3 and the status A3.
Let’s take a closer look at the problem-solving A3 Report.
Storyline of the Problem-solving A3
A3 Reports are so named because they fit
on one side of an
A3-sized sheet of paper, roughly equivalent to an 11” x 17” sheet. The flow of the report is top-to-bottom on
the left side, then top-to-bottom on the right side, as shown in Figure
3.1. A3 Reports are thus easily adapted
to two A4 (or 8.5” x 11”) sheets. Authors
write the reports in sections, each clearly l
According to retired manager Isao
These various influences and practices inside Toyota eventually resulted in the creation of a problem solving and report writing structure that became a de facto standard called generically the “A3” after the size of paper frequently used in the one-page summaries. The earliest A3’s were simple problem solving summary sheets. Later, the tool evolved outwards from this purpose to other applications beyond problem solving, and to other departments beyond production.
The A3 Report is a flexible tool, and can
be adapted to
fit most problem solving situations. In
order to illustrate the tool’s inherent flexibility, we’ll demonstrate
different types during the course of this book.
However, for a starting point it is best to understand the