Sunday, January 12, 2014

The A3 Goal for the Year: Cuts though Busy-ness

Every year for the last ten or so, I have gone about the business of helping people set a goal for the number of total A3s they will complete during the coming year. 

I think we can all agree that the proper metrics are very important. S.M.A.R.T. goals motivate and let everyone know what is important. The S stands for specific (simple & stretching); the M is for measurable (motivational & meaningful); the A is achievable (agreed upon & appropriate); the R is for relevant (results-based); and the T is for time-based (time-limited). My experience has taught me that well-taught goals and metrics are nearly always met and exceeded. 

In the case of building a real culture of continuous improvement, the number one enemy is "busy-ness". There are only so many hours in a day, Mondays turn into Fridays, meetings run long, there has been some "down-sizing",  etc. etc. Who has time to truly delight the customer. We can just about satisfy them. For those of you who know me, I am interested in working at delighting my customers (internal & external) for 15-20 minutes per day (not a handful of 3-day events per year).  Every single person in the business. 240 work days per year. A3 thinking is how we learn to use those 15-20 minutes. 

The first year we did A3, we did 30 (we did it for 8 months, starting in May that first year). At the end of that year, I asked everyone what our goal should be for year 2. Some people said 40, others said 125. People came to agreement (some reluctantly) that the goal would be 70. We did 83. The following year the goal was 125, they did 155. Etc. etc. The goal never shrunk or stayed the same. Some people did criticize the goal. They said it was "Bill's number".

I look at the number as evidence that we (as a team) are committed to being better than the year before. It is our promise to each other that we will cut through the "busy-ness" to work to improve our own processes by driving out the 8 wastes. If you have 100 employees in your company, is it really too much to ask every single person to, sometime during an entire year, lead 1 or 2 A3s? And, as a leader, I am committed to seeing you through it, every step of the way? (I WILL NOT let you fail). The A3 scorecard is simply a list with everyone's name and how many A3s they have led and closed, and it shows their contribution to the company goal. This alone helps fight "busy-ness". 

A "big" A3 goal has another benefit. A couple of the companies I work for have set goals of >150 A3s. This not only reminds everyone that CI is very important, but also reminds everyone that A3 is about small, reversible steps toward flow, NOT big time projects that stay on the board. A defect, a customer complaint, a near-miss safety issue, a small 5S, an employee suggestion, etc. The best part is the fact that there will be >150 closings (Yokoten), and 150 opportunities for people to sharpen their own leadership skills.

If the goal for the year is 5, it means it just isn't that important. I promise that when you get to 300 closed A3s with 100 people, you will find yourself working in a very lean learning organization!

No comments:

Post a Comment