A3’s Are Hard!
A3’s are a report format that a lot of lean people talk about using. The reporting is not what it is about. The purpose to make the thinking visible and easy to understand in order to have more meaningful discussions about a problem or issue.
As important as they are it is still hard to do. A3’s take time to put together. Just putting something down on paper isn’t good enough. It is taking the time to think about what the message is and conveying it clearly and very concisely because space is limited. If the message isn’t clear then there can be misunderstandings that cause delays.
People usually don’t take the time to write an A3 as they are going along. Not because they don’t believe in them but they get so busy working on the problem they don’t pause to do it. I am guilty of this myself. I miss opportunities to write the A3 and get my thinking down on paper for others to understand.
When I have taken the time to write the A3 as I went along I found a few things to be true. Pausing to write the A3 gave me time to really think about the problem I was working on and I saw things from different angles and more clearly. My business partners and I communicated more clearly when I use an A3 and we focus on the paper when we talk not anything personal about each other. It never becomes an attack on a who but a discussion on a what. Finally, I seem to finish my projects quicker because of the better communication which leads to better understanding and a quicker resolution.
A way I have found to help keep me on track with writing my A3 as I go along is to plan it into my work. Schedule it so it is an appointment you have to keep. This way I revisit it and keep it fresh as the project continues to move forward.
A3s are a great tool but they are hard. No question about it. The benefit is worth the effort though.