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Introduction to the A3                                                               Page 5

Step 2: Current Condition

  It is important to directly observe the problem before you can fix it. The right group of people to participate in the problem solving will make sure you are on the right track. The right group of people are those that are directly impacted by the problem or participate in the problem. Who knows better the details of a problem than the people that are affected by it every day? If this is a very large group, then select representatives to participate. You as the manager or supervisor are impacted by the problem, you must be, or you wouldn’t be trying to solve it, so you should participate also. The objective is not about going to see but about going to understand. A process tour can be enjoyable, but it is not about construction tourism. It is necessary to not just see but actually study and understand the problem. There is a big difference.
Encourage the team to brainstorm at this point. Ask them to talk about every cause of the problem and write them down on a separate piece of paper. Then talk about each cause of the problem and divide them into categories. Now look at each category and see if the group can combine some of the causes into one or two causes which state the same thing. If they can not, that is fine but it is a good exercise because many times several causes are listed which really state the same thing and this clutters the thinking and the communication.




YOU ARE IMPACTED BY THE PROBLEM AS A MANAGER OR SUPERVISOR, SO YOU SHOULD PARTICIPATE BUT BE VERY CAREFUL NOT IMPOSE YOUR WILL ON THE PROCESS. ENCOURAGE THE TEAM TO DISCUSS OPENLY AND EMPOWER THEM TO MAKE REAL CHANGE.

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 Consider the impact on the problem statement if you send two people off on different trajectories of just five degrees. You will get far apart pretty quickly. The problem statement establishes our trajectory. If two people depart from the same location on a trip, and only five degrees separates their trajectory, they will be in drastically different places in a matter of hours.
The second pitfall is getting locked into the problem statement as though it is written on a stone tablet. You must be willing to adjust your problem statements. This doesn’t mean your original problem statement was wrong. Writing a problem statement is a developing and learning process—problem statements are changed because you learn stuff through the process of examining the problem. In my experience, coaching teams in writing and working through A3s, you must modify a problem statement at least half the time. I have also observed that the changes to the problem statement usually occur as the team discusses the causes of the problem.  I ALWAYS RECOMMEND WRITING A3s with a PENCIL. Keep in the mind the purpose: Define a problem, determine the root cause, determine what we want to happen, develop a plan to achieve that, and determine how we will follow up on that plan. AND to do all that with a group of people that have direct impact on and by the problem. It is a process and it takes a little time. You will make changes as you proceed. Also remember that the A3 is designed to be short, concise, and communicate clearly to everyone involved. It is supposed to be posted in the work places so that it can be easily referred to. In other words, write neatly.
The third pitfall in problem statements is jumping the gun on too many assumptions before the problem statement is created. You insert unexamined causes and solutions into the problem statement, closing yourself off to many possibilities. The earlier example of “we don’t have enough manpower” is an example of putting the solution in the problem statement. There is only one solution to that problem—get more manpower. It immediately closes you off to many possibilities.

TIP: ALWAYS USE A PENCIL TO WRITE AN A3. YOU WILL MAKE CHANGES AS YOU PROGRESS. HAVE EACH TEAM MEMBER WRITE THEIR OWN, BUT REMEMBER, THE FINAL A3 IS A GROUP PROJECT AND, LIKE THE HIGHLANDER, “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.”
TIP: PITFALL NUMBER 1. WE UNDERESTIMATE THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF CLEARLY DEFINING A PROBLEM AND JUST JUMP STRAIGHT INTO TO SOLVING IT.