In case you don’t know What it is, go check here or here (Managing to Learn web site on lean.org).
Basically, when I teach A3 thinking to people, I tell them that it’s not about the page format nor is it about a convenient way to display all about an issue on one sheet of paper (though, this is very convenient for sure). The important part about the A3 is hidden when you present it: it’s all the hard work that happened before presentation, when creating it.
In Lean, there’s a term for that, it’s called nemawashi which is about patiently building consensus of all stakeholders around some issue:
- reaching agreement about the problem (and that it’s an important problem to solve now)
- reaching agreement about the root causes
- reaching agreement about possible solutions (more than one as the first one that comes to mind rarely is the most efficient)
- reaching agreement about timing for implementation of experimentation
- reaching agreement about measuring results
- and finally reaching agreement about standardising lessons learned
So, what about all the fuss regarding making the A3 as visual as possible? Because it’s the most efficient way of having people quantify elements of the A3.
Without enforcing graphs or picturization of issue, people will spurt lost and lost of text on their A3, most of which will rely heavily on adjectives like “this is an important issue”, “process X have too much problems”, “we need to produce more parts per people”, etc.
Put a graphic and show the problem, damn it! A problem, in Lean, is a gap between reality and a target! So:
- devise a way to represent the problem (select the kind of graphic that will show the problem, even at a distance, without lengthy explanations)
- measure reality (I mean, quantify it with numbers so you can plot it on your graphic)
- show the target. For this, you have two possibilities: either the customer specifications (quality or delays) or company’s goals (costs, safety)
- it the target’s too far, you might want to first give you a smaller (though a bit stretchy), more attainable goal
What’s important is that the goal or target is NOT arbitrary. It should be based on measures as well. If you aim for 30% defect reduction for instance, it means that you somehow measured the defects, made a Pareto chart, identified what you imagine will be able to tackle in a specific time frame, and chose the corresponding defect sources as improvement goals.