Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Benefit of the All Important Beachball A3


By developing a brand new process in your business, it is possible for an organization to do dozens, if not hundreds of "kaizan events" (small, reversible improvements) every year. Imagine everyone spending 15-20 very productive minutes every single day eliminating the non-value added work (the things your customer will not and should not have to pay for) from their own processes. The 8 wastes. Several companies currently have dozens of active a3 projects going on right now. The goal is to engage the brainpower of every single team member in the organization. Once the ball is rolling, people spend time as a3 leaders or as a3 team members. The role of the managers and the lean champion is to demonstrate that this new process is important to the organization, and help a3 leaders be successful. After awhile, this all becomes the way you do business....proceed slowly, consider all options, gain consensus, implement rapidly....then teach everybody else what you did.


I have watched cross-functional self-directed work teams solve problems using a3 thinking (PDCA) that have plagued the organization for years! It's like anything else most of us do in our life. Crawl first, then stumble around, take a few steps, walk, run then sprint. Same with a3. If you want to be the best a3 leader, do a lot of them! Very difficult problems require people who are very good at leveraging diversity of people, gaining consensus, digging to root cause analysis (you only get good at that by doing it a lot also). I like to say these types of a3 teams can hit 95 mile-an-hour fastballs high and inside out of the park.

But, we all have to start somewhere. When we are getting started using this methodology, people don't hit 95 mile-an-hour fastballs high and inside out of the park. It's more like hitting a beach ball with a wiffleball bat. Simple projects to teach the scientific method of problem solving. As companies get started doing lean, the projects are 20% about ROI, and 80% about developing a culture of ownership and teamwork. a3 is one of the best silo-busters I know. Start people with easy wins while you teach them how to select and engage a team, teach them not to jump to solutions, and then get them over the hump in presenting to their peers (scary for some). 

I always get companies rolling with "employee suggestion" type projects. To identify them, you need to go ask them what is slowing them down. One of the first projects for one company was a box stapler that one employee was sick and tired of. It jammed constantly. Come to find out, it was an equal opportunity jammer. Everyone got to spent an extra 10-15 minutes with that baby multiple times per week. She picked a team, went through PDCA (plan-do-check-act), and did an a3 closing in front of a very happy group of peers. I often hear "we've been complaining about X for years." a3 is a mechanism to get things like this out of your life for good. When it goes on the a3 board, it gets done. Period.

Just don't start with the fastballs, people will be hitting them soon enough, I promise. 


1 comment:

  1. Great blog today Bill. I will be sharing this with all managers & supervisors. I like the part about starting A3 projects with employee suggestions. It's a great starting point before diving into VSM's

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