An A3 Report can be seen as a structured paper report which size is the DIN A3 (297 x 420 mm), metric equivalent to 11″ x 17″ (or B-sized). Yet this would be a restrictive understanding of this Lean tool popularized by Toyota.
Deeper into A3 Reports
A3 reports are structured formats based on Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) principle, which come in different variants. Usually A3 reports – based on templates freely available on the web – have some more steps than just four PDCA ones.
The purpose of A3 reports is to “force” users to stick to the process of first take time to describe the current situation and while doing in think about it, e.g. is the situation well understood, are facts correctly and exhaustively collected, what is part of the problem and what is not (data vs. noise), what did the reporter see on the spot (was he/she on the spot?), and so on.
The next step describes what the reporter intent is, what target or goal he/she strives for. It looks trivial, but taking time to verbalize the intent avoids rushing into the first idea or intuition without giving in enough thinking. This kind of rush gives an impression of positive and proactive action, yet is usually only waste because of its lack of preparation.
A box in the report is used to describe the problem analysis, which is important when explaining or exposing to others what have been done. Again, the step-by-step process is designed to slow down passionate doers and invite them to think and prepare before rushing into action.
The next step is to pose some hypotheses / propose countermeasures. At this point the proposed solutions didn’t prove to be the good ones to solve the problem, hence the term ‘hypothesis’. Furthermore, posing hypothesis is a basic of scientific proceeding and that’s why this kind of formal problem solving way or probing with cut-and-try is refered to as ‘scientific method’.
As scientists would do while carrying out experiments, a box is reserved for tracking and measuring the implementation of the solutions. It means taking data about the experiment, monitoring the results and analysing them.
The last box is set for follow-up as the experiment may seem positive on short-term but has to prove itself in the long-term. After a significant period with results matching expectations, the positive conclusion will be put in this last box and A3 report closed and archived.