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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Problem Solving

The A3 Workbook: Unlock Your Problem-Solving Mind by Daniel D. Matthews (Productivity Press, CRC Press)

An effective problem-solving process is a critical part of implementing efficient business practices, and a problem-solving culture is a fundamental component of empowering employees to support business improvements. Taken together, they can help any organization make continuous improvements on the journey to creating a more productive and profitable business.

Encouraging efficiency, clarity, and disciplined thinking, A3 Problem Solving identifies a problem, describes the objective, and summarizes fact-finding and action steps, all on a single A3-sized piece of paper. This approach provides all employees at all levels with a method to quickly identify a problem, analyze it to root cause, select appropriate countermeasures, and communicate necessary actions to decision makers.

The A3 Workbook is designed to teach A3 Problem Solving to workers at every level of the organization. Uniquely qualified to author this workbook, Daniel Matthews is a trainer with 30 years of training experience including Lean implementation and Training within Industry (TWI). Fourteen of those years he spent with the Toyota Company, which created and made use of the A3 as a core component of continuous quality improvement.

There are several documented benefits to using the A3 Problem-Solving approach; it:

  • Provides a methodical approach to problem solving.
  • Provides a succinct format for presenting or reporting facts to others.
  • Documents a trail that others can follow and use to understand the problem-solver's actions and results.
  • Provides a common language and method within an organization.
  • Creates a culture conducive to sustaining Lean Manufacturing concepts.
  • Provides a foundation and lays the groundwork for future change.

The A3 Workbook provides a practical tool for solving specific problems or for making a specific proposal, while also encouraging the development of a corporate culture that empowers all employees to support continuous improvement. The workbook follows the progression of a basic A3 Problem Solving format, offering instructions every step of the way. To reinforce learning, it includes

  • Case studies that readers can use to complete A3s.
  • Tips on how to improve the readability of A3s.
  • Examples of Problem Solving A3s, and a Proposal A3.
  • Exercises to reinforce whats learned.
  • Worksheet templates that can be reproduced for future problem solving.

The goal of The A3 Workbook is for readers to be able to communicate their proposal or problem on a single sheet of paper. ANSI B paper (11x17 inches) and the A3 Problem Solving process makes it possible for them to achieve this goal. In a Lean organization where everyone has multiple functions, there is little time for reading reams of data to understand a particular problem or situation. The A3 effectively condenses large amounts of data into an easy-to-read and understand format. By keeping it simple, they are less likely to lose the attention of readers and possibly their support.

Although workers do not need to create an A3 for every situation, it is a good idea to use the format on a regular basis. The more they use it, the more it will become a natural part of how they approach problem situations. In their daily work, they will encounter many situations requiring action the thought process can be used at any time.

The book contains case studies that readers will use to complete A3s, tips on how to improve the readability of A3s, examples of Problem Solving A3s, and a proposal A3.

Matthews says he realized that although there are some very good books on the market that discuss the A3, there was nothing that walked people block by block through the A3 format and how the problem-solving process fits in with each block. Matthews says he wanted to create a workbook that could be used at every level in the organization to develop the basic problem-solving skills that are required to make continuous improvements.

The A3 Workbook can be used by companies to develop the problem-solving skills of their employees leading not only to improved profit, quality, productivity, safety, and delivery, but also to a culture that understands the value of developing people at every level. With the workbook readers can actually practice applying the skills described in each section. Especially for managers who are realizing that they must develop their entire workforce in order to help their organization achieve its goals and objectives, The A3 Workbook provides anyone at any level within an organization with the tools they need to be effective problem solvers.







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