Adding Toyota’s A3 Report Process to your EA Toolkit

by | January 16, 2011

Joe McKendrick (@joemckendrick) wrote about Lean IT on ZDNet on Dec 27, 2010 titled Eight steps to achieve lean  IT.

In his set of steps, Joe mentioned the Toyota A3 Report approach to looking at problems and A3 Thinking.   He refers to this site about the A3 Process.  You can download a template here.

Here are the 7 steps to the process:

  1. Identify a problem or need
  2. Conduct research to understand the current situation
  3. Conduct root cause analysis
  4. Devise countermeasures to address root causes
  5. Develop a target state
  6. Create an implementation plan
  7. Develop a follow-up plan with predicted outcomes

In my masters studies on Technology Change Management, we were introduced to Toyota’s A3 approach as a tool for structured, problem solving.  John Shook wrote about “Toyota’s Secret: The A3 Report” in the MIT Sloan Management Review.   The article explores:

“How Toyota solves problems, creates plans, and gets things done while developing an organization of thinking problem solvers”.

Shook describes Toyota’s use of a two page mechanism called the A3 Report for attacking problems.  He found the following:

  • The A3’s constraints (just 2 pages) and its structure are the keys to the A3’s power
  • The A3 process can be used to effectively solve problems and plan initiatives, its greatest value may be how it fosters learning and it provides ideal opportunities for mentoring
  • The A3 report becomes the basis for collaboration

We constantly look for ways to show value using Enterprise Architecture and the A3 process should be another tool to add to an EA’s toolkit.   I recommend reading the article I linked in this post and would be interested in hearing from any of you who have used this process.

Shook, J. (2009). Toyota’s Secret: The A3 Report. MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2009, Vol. 50 No. 4 P. 31-33.

6 thoughts on “Adding Toyota’s A3 Report Process to your EA Toolkit

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  2. Redge

    Having worked in the automotive industry and as a supplier to Toyota, I can attest to the value of the A3 format for problem solving.

    The objective is to create a standardized format and also to ensure that the focus remains with the problem at hand. I caution you not to be fooled by it’s relative simplicity.

    Problem solving using this form can be difficult as it’s limited space is purposefully restricted to encourage a concise and definitive presentation.

    I highly recommend reading Toyota Kata by Mike Rother where he discusses Toyota’s improvement process at length. Definitely worth the read if you really want to understand how improvements and problem solving are integrated into Toyota’s culture.

    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Redge, thank you for the reply and the added information. I am keen to better understand this approach and will look for the book you recommended. All the best, Leo

        1. Leo de Sousa Post author

          Thank you Johan, I will take a look. I have a meeting with the Director of Student Services and the Director of the Library who want to create virtual services (probably video) to our satellite campuses. I am hoping to use the A3 process to help capture and articulate the issues of their request.

          1. Johan Lindberg

            Sounds like an excellent place to start and try it out. Please let us know how it goes.

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