If you wanted to share the status of your project with other stakeholders in order to inform or generate buy-in, how would you go about doing it? You might create a word document that would describe the approach, methodology, and conclusions etc. and share this document with your stakeholders. Or you might create a power point file to make a presentation to your key stakeholders. In order to communicate your key messages the word document may be several pages long or the power point slides may contain several slides. This may get the job done but we usually find that this approach has several problems.
First, there is usually lots of non-value added information in the report that may make the report longer than it should be. Usually, people do not read long reports and hence the report may not be effective in transferring the required information to the readers. Second, there are no standards in writing reports – different people will write the report in different ways. Hence readers have to acquaint themselves with the information that is shared which makes understanding the report longer than required. Third, some reports may not cover all the required information thus only partially communicating the status of the project with other stakeholders.
A3 report is an application of “lean” concepts to the report generation by making the report standardized and concise. The idea is that you should be able to share the status of your project (no matter what the project is) in a single one-page document. This is like the elevator pitch – being able to explain a concept or proposal in a short period of time to generate buy-in from key stakeholders. Such a report is called an A3 report. The name originally comes from the size of the paper used to create such a report since the standard size of paper A4 was too small, an A3 size paper was used in earlier days for this report hence the name A3 report.
An A3 report is a one page document that has a specific standard format to share information with other stakeholders. An A3 report follows the PDCA problem solving methodology. It contains four main elements – the plan (what is the problem statement and what are we going to do to solve the problem), the do (what is the implementation plan and target dates), the check (what are the results of the KPIs), and the act (what are the next steps and follow-up actions). An example A3 template is shown in figure 1.
How to Create A3 Report
The Sigma Magic software contains a standard Excel template for creating A3 reports. Click on Lean and then A3 report to add an A3 report template to your Excel workbook. Follow the following steps to create the A3 report.
Enter the title of the project or problem you are working on. This should be a short one-line description of the issue.
Write down the name of the all the team members who contribute to creating or updating the report. The name of the team leader should have a * next to the name or the words team leader written in parenthesis.
Write down the background of this problem or issue. The background contains a brief introduction of the issue and describes the reason why we are working on this issue.
Write down the initial condition or the current state. This could be a picture, words or a value stream map that describes the current situation.
Write down the target condition – what are we aiming to achieve or improve. This could be a picture, words or a value stream map. When all the implementation actions have been taken the current state of working should transition to the target condition.
The difference between the current state and the target state indicates a gap that needs to be closed. The root cause analysis section details the reasons for the gap. Typically, you can use a 5 Why analysis to determine the root cause. You could also share any data to identify the root causes and/or show a fishbone diagram of the causes in this section.
Next, indicate the countermeasures to address the root causes. You need to try to achieve consensus among your team members to arrive at the countermeasures. Here we are not aiming for perfection but something that will help us take use from the current state to the target condition.
Determine an implementation plan for these countermeasures – what actions are required, who is responsible for completing the action items, and what is the target date for implementation. The status of the implementation can also be shared with the stakeholders – whether the implementation is on-track, ahead, or behind.
Next comes documentation of any actions – these could include the lessons learned or replication of countermeasures to other areas that may also have similar issues/concerns.
Finally, the last section is the KPI metrics that are being tracked for this issue – what are the historical baseline values, the target values, and the current values. This will help us determine if the countermeasures are effective in meeting the goals.
Once the report is created, this report has to be shared with other stakeholders and any feedback obtained from the stakeholders should be incorporated into the A3 report. If required, all the stakeholders should also sign-off on the report to indicate agreement with the report.
Problems & Concerns with A3 Report
One of the problems with the A3 report format is the usage of the non-standard size of the paper or report used. It is usually hard to find printers that can print an A3 report – most printers use the standard A4 size paper. In addition, projecting the A3 report on the screen makes the text too small to see on the screen. Some users are now migrating to creating this report on a A4 size paper – but this report is still called an A3 report for historical reasons.
An A3 report is a two-way process. When the user creates the report and shares with the key stakeholders, the inputs and feedback from the stakeholders should be used to update the A3 report so that everyone is in agreement with the content of the report. Sometimes, an A3 report is used only for one-way communication which defeats the main purpose of an A3 report – to generate buy-in and alignment among stakeholders.
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