- Purpose of this article
- A3 Thinking - The Lean Problem Solving Approach
- How to Use Cause-Effect Diagrams
- Example 1: Long Release Cycle
- Example 2: Defects Released to Production
- Example 3: Lack of Pair Programming
- Example 4: Lots of Problems
- Practical Issues: How to Create and Maintain the Diagrams
A3 Thinking -The Lean Problem Solving Approach
One of the core tenets of Lean Thinking is Kaizen – continuous process improvement. Toyota, one of the most successful companies in the world, attributes much of their success to their highly disciplined problem solving approach. This approach is sometimes called A3 thinking (based on the single A3-size papers used to capture knowledge from each problem solving effort).
Here’s an example & template: http://www.crisp.se/lean/a3-template
With the A3 approach, a significant amount of time (the left half of the sheet) is spent analyzing and visualizing the root cause of a problem before proposing solutions. A cause-effect diagram is only one way of doing a root-cause analysis. There are other ways too, such as value stream maps and Ishikawa (fishbone) diagrams. The sample A3 above contains a value stream map (top left) and a cause-effect diagram (bottom-left).
The nice thing about cause-effect diagrams is that they are fairly intuitive and self-explanatory (especially compared to fishbone diagrams). Another advantage is that you can illustrate reinforcing loops (vicious cycles), which is very useful from a systems thinking perspective.
The rest of this article describes how to effectively create and use these diagrams.