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Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System [Hardcover]

by Durward K. Sobek II., Art Smalley
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 7, 2008 1563273608 978-1563273605 1
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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Productivity Press; 1 edition (March 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563273608
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563273605
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 3.6 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Summary of A3 Thinking May 11, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I finally got my copy of this book in the mail last week. I guess it is sold out and hard to obtain at any site. I'm glad to finally have mine. Given some of the comments above I'm guessing there was either a delay at the publishers or they simply did not anticipate all the demand. I did finally get mine however...

Regardless I am please to note that this book is an excellent summary of A3 Thinking. I've had some exposure to the topic in the past and always been left wanting more. This finally gets at a lot of questions I had about the concept. If you have ever wanted to learn what an A3 report is and more importantly the thought process behind one then this is the best place to start that I know of. The print is a little small and the text is 164 pages I think the 184 page figure comes from including the other pages in the foreword, acknowledgements, and introduction sections etc. However there is no shortage of good information inside. I zipped through it over the weekend and got some great insights right away.

The contents of the book include the following eight chapters. Each is roughly about 20 pages in length.

1. A Basis for Managerial Effectiveness
2. A3 Thinking - the Seven Elements
3. The Problem Solving A3 Report
4. The Proposal A3 Report
5. The Status A3 Report
6. Notes on Form and Style
7. Supporting Structures
8. Conclusion

I thought the second chapter on the seven elements A3 Thinking was particularly insightful and appreciated the advice on the different types of examples as well. The book is both a good "what is" summary of the topic and contains some very practical advice about "how to" write different types. Equally importantly for me at least it included some insight on how to critique A3's as well. I give the work five stars as it fills a void in the lean literature in a very readable manner.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good A3 Reference Book February 14, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Outstanding reference work of the logic and mechanics of creating A3's. Covered are 3 variants: 1) Problem Solving A3's, 2) Proposal A3's, and 3) Status A3's.

The authors present a refreshingly pragmatic approach to helping improvement teams and leaders to drive communication, scientific method thinking and organizational alignment for improvement. Clearly building on the A3 heritage of Toyota...the focus is on the thought process and not on one correct format. " ...like snowflakes, no two A3's are alike."

Six Sigma professionals will recognize many elements (both existing and omitted) of DMAIC thinking in the PDCA format of the A3. For today's challenging business cycle, the A3 approach can offer faster, less bureaucratic results, building on more frequent cycles of learning through revision than DMAIC.

This book is valuable for beginners as well as veteran Six Sigma professionals looking to make the transition from DMAIC to A3 thinking.

The case studies included in the book provide an outstanding opportunity to test your understanding and gain initial cycles of learning with A3's writing and reviewing.

Save this book for a long flight; you can get through the case studies easily.

Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor, and Lead is another helpful guide to A3's which deals even more with the "human side" of A3 thinking.

For those who wish to go deeper into the graphical aspects of A3, which are discussed to a limited degree in Mr. Sorbek's work, Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition is a valuable resource.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding and In-Depth May 11, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This book is outstanding. I initially thought it would be a quick read since the page count is short, but I found myself slowly savoring it. This book is like a good wine where you appreciate the textures and nuances if you take it slow.

I suggest this book to all Lean practitioners, most project managers, people who use data to understand problems and show improvements, people who like to draw, and anybody else that enjoys the thought process behind problem solving.

This is a great next book for fans of THE BACK OF THE NAPKIN. [...]

The authors offer profound insights to A3 thinking and structure. They also paint a deeper understanding of the thinking at Toyota. I particularly liked the explanation of nemawashi and how the A3 author must return to those where their concerns were not addressed to explain why.

I found the thinking behind data to be fascinating. It is nice to see how much or how little is used. The authors even give a nice overview of Tufte's graph theories while providing an easy template to choose the best graph to match your communication goal.

For project managers, the A3 project status template is worth exploring. I have used dashboards in the past but this structure paints a better picture while ensuring the organization's objectives are still being met (projects can chug along way past this simple goal and this report keeps it grounded).

Last but not least, my organization is in the infancy of launching A3 to our mix of Improvement Workshops and Value Stream work. This book offers practical suggestions for starting A3 at your enterprise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
The book assisted me in a problem solving exercise. The book lays out the information me a easy to understand way.
Published 1 month ago by william adcock
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most well written books I have read on such a topic!
Excellent Organization. The right amount of detail. Great style of writing. Can be used as a primer to get started on implementing A3 reports in a group or an organization. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Shripad Lale
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!!!!
For people being first facing the Lean, it is great reference to get them big picture and know where to get started
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great take-aways!
This was required reading for my company. I enjoyed this book an d took away lots of great ideas and concepts.
Published 4 months ago by Elizabeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
If the A3 method is one of the best to manage quality actions or others, this book is the best to learn it!
Published 7 months ago by Gabriel de Melo Oliveira
5.0 out of 5 stars infographic book in disguise
A3 reporting is useful. In essence it combines the philosophy of lean into reporting, proposals and problem sobbing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Cheng Yi Chiao
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for overview and reference
Hardly a week goes by that I do not consult this book (I have the hard cover and Kindle versions), and certainly not a month goes by without my referring to it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Normfll
5.0 out of 5 stars Best little book around
Talked to the author for some insights. Very accessible. Like the summary and examples. Focus is on thinking and not the tool.
Published 10 months ago by Dave Kinne
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberation from Powerpoint!
Whether you are a process improvement expert or a novice, problem solving in general must become a core competency of anyone in any organization faced with the inevitable... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Sam Doucette
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
Had to get for school. Good break down of A3 ideas, general formats and approach. Worthwhile if you have reports in your life and would like to improve them
Published 15 months ago by blake
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