More and more improvers and Lean specialists are using the A3 improvement method (also known as the kaizen circle or A3 method). Rienk van der Vaart, Lean specialist at HillFive, about the methodology and how it contributes to achieving improvement.
The A3 improvement method is an instrument that can be used to solve problems and implement improvements in a structured way. The method was originally developed at Toyota, where it is routine to work continuously and in a structured way on improvements. The method is now used in many organizations, including in our country.
The A3 method offers a great way to get to the core of problems and to stimulate collaboration and learning. This approach contains a number of steps that together form a document that tells the story from problem to solution and the steps taken to get there.
The root cause analysis is central to this. Because we are often used to immediately thinking in terms of solutions, this step gives a deeper insight into the problem and the underlying causes. The resulting countermeasures ensure that the solution is truly sustainable.
An example of the A3 as we use it for our clients is shown below. We call this the ‘7 box A3’ because there are steps that must be taken to achieve a result.
A good A3 contains a number of specific features:
- The A3 follows a logical thinking process based on PDCA (Plan Do Check Act)
- Is data driven and objective
- Focuses on results and the process
- Provides coherence, focus on the real problem and is visually appealing
- Ensures good coordination with all stakeholders
- Shows the coherence between the different steps and the information matches each other within the steps
- The A3 contributes to the strategic goals of the organization
When implementing improvements, it is important not to immediately switch to a different working method. First find out which solution is best by means of tests or pilots. See whether the tests yield the correct results, and use continuous improvement to ensure an improvement. Then the new method can be introduced.
A HillFive team is currently working on an improvement project at one of our clients, using the A3 method. The participants in this process are all working on solving a problem in their organization using the A3 method. They don’t do this alone. Together with colleagues, clients and coaches, the (interim) results are discussed and adjustments are made where necessary.
In this way we ensure that the results are achieved and that the participants can be proud of what they have achieved and the impact that has been achieved for the organization. Typical examples of this are stock reduction, lead time correction of processes and quality improvements.