Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How A3 Shortens the Learning Curve!

A3 is another way to say kaizan. Small, continuous, steps toward flow. (Remember that flow is the utopia where an order comes in, and it never stops moving until the customer gets what they want). Flow is achieved by taking identifying the 8 wastes and removing them, and therefore removing time, from all processes.

A3 is a sport of 3-5 people using Plan-Do-Check-Act to accomplish this. In my company, we did over 700 A3s in one year with about 70 people. Over 700 occasions where a group of people are learning and TEACHING their peers at an A3 "closing". 

A3s would be about problems, customer complaints, R&D projects, 5S opportunities, standardization, and again, about taking time out of processes. When new people came to the company, they would quickly be exposed to this vast variety of improvement activity at the "closings". The closings would occur on Thursday afternoons, and everyone was invited. They would last about 20 minutes each, and there could be as many as 3 or 4 on a given Thursday. At first, rookies would listen and absorb. After a while, they might ask a question, and before long, they found themselves on an A3 team. Then, usually after 5 or 6 weeks, they were ready to LEAD a team. They learned who are customers were. Who are suppliers were. A lot about our product line. And most importantly, they learned how to work with their peers. Being a team player can be taught and practiced!!

New people understood quickly that the company is about continuously improving, and they also quickly understood that everyone was included and involved. They also understood that we are about team and cooperation and helping each other. People participated on A3 teams, and led other teams. They also understood how smart their peers were and their peers found out just how smart they were! And, the whole company was slowly and steadily moving toward FLOW!

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