The A3 technique of Toyota to boost the thinking of problem-solvers

MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Vol. 50, Summer 2009 at 30-31, gives an example of Toyota Motor Corp.’s method to achieve operational learning. Called the A3, because it fits on one sheet of paper of that size, it typically has a sequence of boxes arrayed in a template. Inside the boxes the A3’s author completes the following: “(1) establish the business context and importance of a specific problem or issue; (2) describe the current conditions of the problem; (3) identify the desired outcome; (4) analyze the situation to establish causality; (5) propose countermeasures; (6) prescribe an action plan for getting it done; and (7) map out the follow-up process.”

The paper is a means to an end. “The ultimate goal of A3s is not just to solve the problem at hand, but to make the process of problem solving transparent and teachable in a manner that creates an organization full of thinking, learning problem solvers. In this way, the A3 management process powerfully embodies the essence of operational learning.”

A tool such as A3 and its associated discipline can help many in-house efforts to solve a problem. More important than the template is the mind set that keeps asking questions to get to root causes.

We welcome comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *