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A3 Reports, Methodology and Process

Posted December 17, 2008 4:32 PM by terrapin

An A3 report is a standardized document whose methodology was developed at Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation. The A3 is considered to be an integral tool for Lean thinking, an optimal way to produce goods and provide services by eliminating waste and inefficiencies.

The A3 report gets its name from the size of paper it is normally created on. A3 size paper is the metric equivalent of the 11" x 17" size paper in the U.S. The idea is to limit the report to one page, thus making the story you're telling more concise and easier to read. The use of graphs and images along with concise text is recommended.

A standard A3 report has multiple sections including:

  • Title
  • Background
  • Current State or Problem
  • Target State or Goals
  • Root Cause Analysis
  • Counter Measures
  • Plan
  • Follow-up

There is no one set template for an A3 report. Typically, it is up to the individual creating the report to determine which sections to include. As a rule, however, someone reading a completed A3 report should be able to follow the story that the author is trying to tell. The report should use a standardized reporting structure while encouraging deep thinking about the root causes of a given problem, and why the problem is important for the organization to solve.

When creating an A3 report, it is important to avoid doing so in isolation. The author must go to the Gemba, a Japanese term meaning "the place where the truth can be found", to analyze the actual work being performed. The author must include others in problem analysis, developing counter measure and goals.

It is important to get buy-in and sign-off from others in the organization when solving a problem. The A3 process facilitates communication and collaboration with people in different parts of the company to help solve a current problem or propose new ideas in the business.

Here are some links to additional resources for A3 reports:

A Primer on A3 Reports: Better Thinking for Stronger Organizations


John Shook: Managing to Learn

Other Web Resources:

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Re: A3 Reports, Methodology and Process

12/17/2008 11:13 PM

Whittier consulting has a nice exemplar here:

We had been using a single page for reporting to executive management scheme from 1997-2002. It was at the height of the M&A boom and we were backed by the Wall street types and nobody had any time to read more than the first page. Then we started the a3 formality for justifying new projects. And corrective actions. It involves more channels to thought than just words, (if you have sketches and graphs)and its structure makes it particularly effective.

We found that doing them freehand rather than on a computer made them "richer." But i think sobek at montana makes a word template available on the web.

I'm a fan.

I will be teaching a course in the business school in January and have added A3 reports to the syllabus.


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Re: A3 Reports, Methodology and Process

12/18/2008 1:12 AM

Yes , The A3 Concept paper is a powerful tool in Toyota, Because I myself have done 10 ~ 15 A3 concept papers when I was in Toyota.

It is the most toughest part yet powerful. Once A3 concept paper is ready then it goes through fine tuning by reviewing it atleast 5 times by Managers Or Dgm.

In A3 most important part is graphs & visualisation.

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Re: A3 Reports, Methodology and Process

12/18/2008 8:39 AM

So far I have created two A3 reports for work-related projects. They are very helpful in bringing new ideas or forgotten details to the surface. Thanks to their conciseness, they're an easy way to solicit feedback from the rest of the team. Sometimes it's challenging to keep a lot of information to one page or to know which information to put in the form of a chart/graph - but each A3 report is just another learning process.

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Re: A3 Reports, Methodology and Process

01/21/2009 12:59 PM

There is a similar A3 form used in the shipbuilding industry, called the "Bene-sug" or "beneficial suggestion". It has been used for a long time and is a proven way to cut costs, improve productivity and safety. There is also a cash reward proportional to the amount of money saved, aroung 5%. Typically savings have been as little as 5K to 200K and more. These reports go through a review board composed of engineers, supervisors and management. I think the auto industry has a similar program.

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