Writing an A3 is a wonderful tool to solve problems and share the thinking that goes into resolving issues. I have some tips to help first time A3 authors that I hope will be valuable for you. (If you do not know what A3 is, I recommend visiting the A3 Thinking FAQ webpage by Sobek/Smalley).
- Get a coach – Coaches will help by asking you to describe the thinking behind what you write. They will challenge you sometimes to dig deeper or in another direction. They will be an outside pair of eyes to provide feedback on how understandable your A3 is. There are many benefits to having a coach.
- Choose a small scope project in your area first – A3 can be used for large scope or cross-department issues but I find it is easier to learn A3 by focusing your first issue within your area and a smaller scope. Look for recent fires your team has put out and use A3 thinking to understand the root cause so the fire will not happen again. You may also look for workarounds that exist for your co-workers or other known issues* as inspiration for your first A3.
- Do not write your A3 alone – You will be the only author that puts pencil to the 11×17 paper but ensure you incorporate the feedback you get from the stakeholders you talk to. The people you talk to in the workplace will provide more depth around the true issue you are facing, they will give background information that is highly relevant, they will help uncover root causes you haven’t considered, they will help tweak your countermeasures and target condition, and much more. Writing in their feedback will help you understand the problem better while engaging the people doing the work. In turn they will be more likely to change because you involved them in creating the countermeasures.
- Recognize that A3 takes time – Sometimes new authors think an A3 will be quick. Observing the problem and talking with stakeholders can take time. Be patient and recognize the time you are taking helps the quality. Your first instinct might be to jump to a solution but A3 will require you to gain a deep understanding of the problem before you consider a solution.
* Sometimes people try to work on suspected issues for their A3 (issues with no data or feedback from others that something is a problem). You may feel it needs to be investigated but there is nothing indicating you have a problem. For first time authors, it will be easier to focus on known issues.
Does anybody else have advice for first time A3 authors?
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