Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Understanding A3 Thinking

A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System, 1st Edition

By Durward K. Sobek II., Art Smalley

Productivity Press

184 pages | 47 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2008-03-07
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Winner of a 2009 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Prize.

Notably flexible and brief, the A3 report has proven to be a key tool In Toyota’s successful move toward organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and improvement, especially within its engineering and R&D organizations. The power of the A3 report, however, derives not from the report itself, but rather from the development of the culture and mindset required for the implementation of the A3 system.

In Understanding A3 Thinking, the authors first show that the A3 report is an effective tool when it is implemented in conjunction with a PDCA-based management philosophy. Toyota views A3 Reports as just one piece in their PDCA management approach. Second, the authors show that the process leading to the development and management of A3 reports is at least as important as the reports themselves, because of the deep learning and professional development that occurs in the process. And finally, the authors provide a number of examples as well as some very practical advice on how to write and review A3 reports.

Table of Contents


A Basis for Managerial Effectiveness

PDCA: Heart of the Toyota Way

What Don’t We Get?

A System to Support PDCA Management

3A Thinking

Seven Elements of 3A Thinking

Element 1 : Logical Thinking Process

Element 2: Objectivity

Element 3: Results and Process

Element 4: Synthesis, Distillation, and Visualization

Element 5: Alignment

Element 6: Coherency within and Consistency Across

Element 7: Systems Viewpoint

Practical Problem Solving

Grasping the Current Situation

Identifying the Root Cause

Devising Countermeasures and Visualizing the Future State

Creating an Implementation Plan

Creating a Follow-up Plan

Discussing with Affected Parties

Obtaining Approval

Executing the Implementation and Follow-up Plans

The Problem-Solving 3A Report

Storyline of the Problem-Solving 3A



Current Condition and Problem Statement

Goal Statement

Root-Cause Analysis


Check/Confirmation of Effect

Follow-up Actions

Total Effect

Reviewing Problem-solving 3As

Your Turn

Part : Write an 3A

Part : Critique Your 3A

The Proposal 3A Report

Storyline of the Proposal 3A



Current Condition

Analysis and Proposal

Plan Details

Unresolved Issues (Optional)

Implementation Schedule

Total Effect

Proposal 3A Example

Proposal 3A Example

Reviewing Proposal 3As

Discuss with Peer Group or Advisor

Discuss with Affected Parties

Obtain Approval

Your Turn

Part : Write a Proposal 3A

Part : Review Your 3A

The Status 3A Report

Storyline of the Status 3A



Current Condition


Unresolved Issues/Follow-up Actions

Total Effect

Status 3A Example

Discuss with a Peer Group or Advisor

Your Turn

Notes on Form and Style




Understand Your Data

Use the Best Graph for the Data

Label Properly

Use as Little Ink as Possible

Let the Graphic Talk


Supporting Structures

Standard Templates

Where to Start

Handwritten versus Computer-Generated 3As



Storage and Retrieval


PDCA and Managerial Effectiveness

3A Thinking

Three Main Types

Form and Style

Final Advice

About the Authors

Appendix A: "Reducing Bill Drop Time” Problem-Solving 3A Report

Appendix B: “Practical Problem Solving” Proposal 3A Report

Each chapter concludes with a Summary & Endnotes

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Sales & Selling