Sunday, April 12, 2015

A3 is NOT Willy Nilly

"The last thing we need around here is people running around willy nilly (like zombies?) making random improvements all over the place. That sounds like "sub-optimization to me."

A3 thinking is the absolute perfect (and only) way to develop a spirit of kaizen in your organization. As I have said in this blog before, if you aren't capable of doing kaizen (steady, continuous improvements pretty much every day), then don't call yourself a lean company. 

50% of the improvements need to be of the employee suggestion variety, and 50% should be "policy deployment". The employee suggestion improvements go directly to the age-old question, "how do you measure morale." The policy deployment improvements go directly to how management wants to steer the ship. Keep it at 50-50 and you have yourself a very fun place to work.

Two assumptions you need to make as a leader is that people are smart and people care. After participating in thousands of A3s, I can tell you you need not worry about these two assumptions. Demonstrate respect (and trust) and people will amaze you at just how smart (and creative) they are and how much they really do care.

The fact that an A3 team is 3-5 people is no accident. First off, people are much better at Plan-Do-Check-Act and Root Cause Analysis when there are 5 brains engaged. This is called "leveraging diversity". Everyone comes from different backgrounds, belief systems and will want to take advantage of that.

A3 teams just don't go off "willy nilly". They are comprised of one person who is directly impacted by the process improvement, and often representatives from upstream & downstream (of the value stream). The countermeasures are always carefully calculated as to not create overburden somewhere else (passing the buck). A3 teams are also taught the concept of "nemawashi"-proceed slowly, consider many options, GAIN AGREEMENT, then implement rapidly. Also, when there is a need to consider spending some amount of money, I witness over and over that the A3 team acts like they are spending their OWN money (people are smart and people care).

All you need to do is show up, ask questions, and demonstrate respect. Be prepared to watch people take your business to heights you've never even dreamed about. And they won't do it willy nilly.

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