1st Edition

Understanding A3 Thinking A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System

By Durward K. Sobek II., Art Smalley Copyright 2008
    184 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    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.


    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


    Durward K. Sobek II., Art Smalley