During the last decades, particularly the last years, the world market has suffered constant mutations which have, in turn, increased the pressure of consumers towards the quality, duration and performance of products and services. This complex challenge that was imposed on companies and workforce has motivated organisations to adopt the focus on service level as a basic strategy. This was the context in which Toyota developed a tool which it started using to support and keep up with improvement activities, through a system that is as rigorous and meticulous as it is simple: the A3 report.
In an increasingly technological age where every path will, invariably, lead to the Internet – the solution for most of our daily work related problems resides in an A3 sheet.
The A3 report is a good model to organise information, seeing as it forces people to gather numbers and data about a specific problem in a structured and summarised way, instead of a boring presentation, with a number of pages and excessive information that are irrelevant, most of the times.
Behind a filled out A3 – which is basically a summary of the ongoing activities – is “A3 thinking”, which follows three golden rules: simplify; attain
Stage 1: Preparation – understanding the current situation and defining measurable objectives;
- Step 1: Clarifying objectives, explaining why improvement is needed: scope and results;
- Step 2: Observe the reality, describe the starting point;
- Step 3: Set goals, describe results to be achieved – qualitative and quantitative;
Stage 2: Analysis – identifying improvement opportunities/solutions to adopt;
- Step 4: Analyse differences and causes, discover root causes that explain the differences between the initial situation and the one aimed at;
- Step 5: Designing solutions, listing initiatives and the main improvement actions;
- Step 6: Test the solutions, list the tests or trials necessary before moving forward with implementing;
Stage 3: Verification: Verification: proof of the success of defined actions, impact on improvement of indicators and analysis of lessons learned
- Step 7: Update the action plan;
- Step 8: Check the achievement of pre-set targets, monitor results;
- Step 9: Lessons learned, learn and eliminate obstacles and difficulties
Filling out the A3 meets the basic rules – it should be drawn up by the project leader, and, wherever possible, using graphs, diagrams and photos, for better reading and understanding of the key message. This lets you communicate the improvement process to internal and external elements. In the end, the A3 should be filed.
The implementation of the A3 tool reduces large-scale discussions and loss of time to plan, monitor and finalise a project. The quality and productivity are improved; the days of work planned for the implementation of a given project are met, and the execution time is respected. Finally, in terms of motivation, the A3 makes for a professional and reliable environment.