A3 Problem Solving

The A3 method provides a structured format for describing and reporting on problems and their solutions.  The preparation of an A3 report is an interactive process between a problem owner and his/her manager or mentor.  The A3 focuses attention upon the key issues and thus aids communication and understanding.  The A3 supports the PDCA cycle.

A problem solving A3 will typically include the following elements:

  • Title – what change or improvement is being discussed
  • Owner’s name, mentor’s name and date – identifies who owns the problem, who is advising them and the date of the current revision
  • Background – establishes the business context and explains the importance of the issue
  • Current conditions – describes what is currently known about the problem
  • Goals/targets – identify the desired post-improvement performance
  • Analysis – why do we have the problem or improvement requirement?  Explore the gap between the current state and the goals/targets
  • Proposed countermeasures – propose corrective actions to address the identified gap
  • Plan – how will the countermeasures be implemented
  • Follow-up – show how you will know that you have met your targets and anticipate any remaining issues which may need to be addressed.
PDCA cycle

The A3 plan as a PDCA storyboard

The A3 plan can be considered to be a PDCA storyboard (see PDCA page).

There are no fixed formats for A3 plans, but the following points should be observed:

  • The plan should be adjusted for the type of story being told (e.g. addressing a quality problem or a corporate strategy issue)
  • All four steps of the PDCA cycle must be represented
  • Fit it onto one A3 page
  • Don't resort to tiny text - use graphics to convey the message (charts, flow diagrams, rich pictures)
  • Make sure that the story flows

Heading

1. Background - what are you talking about and why.

2. Current conditions: where do things stand now?

3. Goals/targets

4. Analysis: why does the problem or need exist?

5. Recommendations: what do you propose to do and why?

6. Plan: how will you implement?

7. Follow-up: How will you know your plan has worked?

8. How will you communicate/propagate the improvements?

Footnotes

A more detailed description of the structure of an A3 plan may be downloaded here: