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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Summary of A3 Thinking, May 11, 2008
This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good A3 Reference Book, February 14, 2009
By 
William C. Zeeb (Geneva Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good addition to your lean library, August 23, 2010
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
Pro:
+ Very, very good summary of PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)
+ Good use of references using solid, reliable sources
+ Explains misconceptions of western interpreation of the word, "standard"
+ Solid summary chapter at the end
+ A3 building exercises for the reader is a novel approach, thumbs up
+ Practical advice
+ Good examples of A3s
+ Appreciated the honesty glimpses of the realities of Toyota as a global, multinational company, even if they were small or only hinted at
+ A decent section on the "digital" vs. "paper" debate
+ Describes some elements of good or proper visuals (e.g. Tufte section on proper display of analytics)
+ Changes the way I will forever ask (and give) updates on projects

Con:
- By far the largest issue is the repetitious nature of the material. Chapters 3, 4, 5 could have perhaps been best presented as one with notes describing key differences. As is, I think the repetition has a tendency to hide and demphasize differences and key points.
- Fig 6.2 and related description seems to have some serious issues, whether it is message, erroneous, or other I cannot yet say
- Some jargon (e.g. "spinning your wheels") that will not translate easily if you are not American

Neutral:
> 5 Whys was not deeply described and maybe borders in my opinion on an incorrect description, although in fairness to the authors this is not the focus of the book
> Heavy use of "at Toyota" (which is on the cover) so if this is a turnoff, please note that "Toyota" shows up in here quite a bit

Bottom line: Recommended for everyone. Despite cons, easily in my top 5 lean/excellence books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Insights from a Little Book, September 15, 2010
This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
If you never intend to write an A3, I still recommend this book for you. Through reading it, I finally gained the insight that took Lean out of the realm of a tool set for manufacturing and into the realm of a way of thinking that leads to deep solutions for problems. Few books change the way you think. This was one for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A3 Thinking Matters, January 12, 2009
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
This book is really an excellent and in depth analysis of A3 thinking and the basic process that underlies it, PDCA or the Deming Model. It is a good primer to understand how to use A3 thinking and how to avoid many of the pitfalls that are typical when Americans try to emulate Japanese management practices. Personally, I'm more interested in the Strategy A3 process than the Problem Solving A3 but it all flows nicely and should help anyone interested in learning more about the process.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A3 Thinking, Sobek and Smalley hit it right on the head when they state that it's all about the substance over form,, May 7, 2008
By 
C. E. Wood (Spokane, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
Having begun a career as a engineer in the early 80's, everything I heard Deming talking about the PDCA Cycle made sense, but it was often hard to move it into action. Back then it was much harder (for many reasons) to find good reference resources (and leaders) with the focus and depth of knowledge about deployment that is presented in this book. This is a nice fast read that helps you think through the thinking process, provides the basic framework and guides you through examples.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Software-Architecture-Documentation book, November 1, 2010
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
I am a software architect, and for a long time I've been exposed to classical literature in this area.
When I worked at SAP AG, a member of SEI (Software Engineering Institute) we were trained to document architecture with views, such as described in Documenting Software Architectures: Views and Beyond (2nd Edition).

What I've found out during the years, is that having a sophisticated, academic-degree documentation for a software architecture is excellent for a thoughtful (academic level) discussion amongst architects, but managers, product managers and most importantly - developers rarely benefit from this heavyweight documentation.

The software architecture book mentioned above is 580 pages-long (each page contains more text) vs. the 160 pages-long A3 thinking book. That's the whole point.

This book is concise and useful. It will teach you to get to a higher degree of minimalism than you got before, such as the advice to visualize things you haven't thought of making sense of visualizing before. It will remind you that visualization is more concise and easier to consume.

I did make advices from this book into practice and found it useful right away when dealing in the domain of software engineering. I'm confident that almost any other domain can benefit as much.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 since some parts of it were (at least to me) obvious and repetitive.
I think the authors could have created a 120-pages long book without compromising their message. This may sound a bit of a petty - but after all this books is about being as minimal as possible.
This book is also focus on production (such as Toyota's car manufacturing) - so you will have to transform some of the advices into your domain - but this is not that hard either.

Overall, a very good book that can be realized into everyday improvement right away.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Book, February 1, 2009
By 
Don L (South Lyon, MI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
This is an exceptional book that not only provides the reader with a deep perspective of key Toyota enablers but thoroughly explains how to use and develop the skills to create them.

Any serious study of Toyota reveals that PDCA (the Deming Cycle) and the A3 reporting mechanism are at the heart of the onion. These are the tools that enabled the development of their Production System. As a friend and Toyota manager once explained, "it's their circulatory system" or how they create and transmit knowledge. These tools are as prevalent in Toyota's PD or Marketing as they are in a production unit.

If you are serious about implementing "Lean" your time and money could not be better placed than in reading this book! It is well written and very useful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Well Done!, July 11, 2014
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This review is from: Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System (Hardcover)
Best resource I've found for an A3! Clear, concise explanations and examples. Would make a great training resource. Very well done!
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Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System
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