Friday, April 27, 2012

Problem Solving Learn by Doing Using A3

A3 is a way to leverage the diversity in your organization to solve problems faster and create a culture of ownership, as well as a way to make progress toward flow happen every shift, every day. A3 also builds a population of expert root cause analysts.

Solving problems and not symptoms takes practice, and practice makes perfect. A company doing 200 A3s a year gets very good at seeing problems, determining root cause and implementing countermeasures! One of my observations throughout much of my professional career is the relatively small percentage of people who solve problems on a daily basis. (I define problems as anything that interrupts FLOW-you know, defects, inventory, motion, transport, etc.)

The spirit of A3 is that between 3-5 brains are working together to agree to a current condition, and then think together to determine the root cause. This MUST be done before agreeing to a target condition and an implementation plan. No sense in solving a symptom with a Band Aid, right? There are countless tools that help dig and uncover the root. 5 Why, Fishbone, Ishikawa, Kepner-Tregoe, Bayesian analysis, etc. etc. Like ANY tool in my work shed, I get really good at it when I actually use it. Reading, studying and talking about hitting a baseball doesn't make me a great hitter. Same thing with root cause analysis. I would argue that the ONLY tool I need for this job is 5 WHY. Having said that, it is because I've used it hundreds of times. On real problems! At my company! Companies who use A3 to aggressively, slowly, consistently improve processes and solve problems get to be world-class at determining root cause. And remember, A3 is not done by the Lean Department. It is done routinely by everyone in the company.

When you get good at root cause analysis, you solve problems once and they stay solved. Small problems, big ones, easy problems, hard ones. What would life be like if you spent your days with an entire population of great problem solvers?

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