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Introduction to the A3                                                               Page 2

The concept of the A3 is to develop a process for identifying problems, determining the root cause of the problems, determine what we want to happen, develop a plan to make that happen and then a process to follow up. Of course, none of this is new. We have been assigning managers and committees to these types things of for years. Government file cabinets are full of committee generated reports of thousands of pages each which are the result of very diligent and motivated people who spent hours researching and finding solutions to problems just as I summarized above. The difference in the A3 problem solving process are many but the five primary differences are this:
1.       It is done by a group of people which are made up of all the parties that are directly affected by the problem and may be part of the problem.
2.       The problem is first defined. This seems obvious, but you will probably find that this step is more difficult than it first appears to be. 
3.       The Target Condition is defined clearly. In other words, we determine what exactly we want the outcome to be, what will it look like if we solve the problem.
4.       We develop a concise plan to correct the problem and a plan to follow up and check if the solution is working.
5.       We have a tool the communicates all of this on a single piece if paper that can be hung in the areas where the problem exists so that everyone can see it, understand it and refer to it often.

A3 Problem Solving Overview and Refresher

Lean construction has been talked about for years and many books have been written. I spend hours researching and teaching lean construction principals, and as anyone who knows me can attest, I can talk for hours on the subject.

The simple fact is that it doesn’t take hours to understand. Understanding lean requires only and understanding of three simple concepts:
1. Waste exists everywhere and in every process
2. Our goal in business is to provide our customers with something they value for a cost that is reasonably less than what we pay to provide it. (We deserve a reasonable profit) and
3. We need to identify anything we do that does not add value to the customer but costs us money and eliminate it.

That’s it.  Sounds simple right? It is, until you come to the part of identifying the things that do not add value and eliminating them. We typically call this process “Problem Solving.”

We have a tendency in our culture to “problem solve” in an inefficient and ineffective manner.  I have seen the following steps taken to solve a problem on many occasions. So many occasions, that I believe this to be the “normal” way of doing things.
1. Someone makes a statement such as “we don’t have enough men on the project.” And the problem solving starts.
2. Research is done, sometimes extensively and sometimes a quick check of facts, and the results are produced. If this is something that needed a lot of research, then a fancy, bound, 300-page report, with color graphs and statistical analysis is produced. Or in a simpler issue, such as we don’t have enough men, we check the current schedule and crew size.
3. The causes of the problem are identified. Typically, this is limited to looking at the one or two causes that come to mind.
4. A supervisor or manager comes up with a brilliant process or solution to the problem and Hooray. Problem solved, onto the next problem…..Rinse and Repeat. Of course, the other repeating part of this process is that we seem to have to come back to the same issue over and over and over.