The answer is both. The “thinking process” is not a one-size-fits-all tool. The same can be said for the use of A3’s. Decisions are based on cause-and-effect relationships and subject matter expert knowledge, and commonly there is more than one right answer.
A3 is a continuous improvement, problem-solving tool that allows a team to identify an issue, take steps to resolve it, and document the entirety of the process on one, easy to read page. The A3 leads a person through the process of understanding, sets the root for an acceptable outcome (the goal), and establishes the tasks to get there.
The A3 thinking process is highly flexible, and I could probably think any problem fitting onto an A3 if I put my mind to it. But why would I do that? Think about the problem before you pull out the paper or at least when starting the A3. Based on our A3 coaching experience, difficulty (or lack thereof) creating the left side of the A3 (problem background, current condition, and goal) is a clue as to whether the problem is simple or complicated.
Most companies have early challenges using A3’s, but today A3’s are widespread throughout manufacturing, product development, and countless other enterprises. We teach the process and coach engineers, supervisors, line leaders, managers, etc. to apply the process to solve real problems. At Baron Environmental we use this thinking process daily, when “brainstorming”, and creating tasks as part of our implementation plans. Our thinking process projects are simple and kept on a board.
“Managing to Learn” by John Shook
Executives and managers at all levels in the organization will benefit from the book. An A3 can be used wherever there is a need for people to work together to get clarity on a problem or proposal and then to create a set of realistic and effective countermeasures.