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Introduction to the A3                                                               Page 8

Step 6: Assign a Champion and Define the Metrics

In the previous steps we have defined our ideal condition and we have also developed a plan to implement to reach that condition. Now we need to assign a person or group of persons who will be responsible for the most important part of any plan, the follow up.
One of the challenges faced in every industry is follow up. Many organizations and groups develop excellent plans to address problems or bring about improvements but they either fail to communicate them or they fail to follow up on them and ultimately the plan fails to bring about the desired result.
The military developed missiles for aircraft during world war Ii and had since continued to further that development. The original missiles were direct fire devices which flew in a straight line. The pilot had to make an educated guess as to where the target was going to be and fire the missile. If he was correct, then a hit was scored but if not, a miss. The next generation of missiles took into account the many variables that could happen when firing a moving target, such as the target not doing what the pilot expected them to do. A control ability was added for the pilot so that after firing the missile he had some ability to adjust its course and make corrections based on what the target was doing. This was a wonderful improvement in effectiveness, but it also meant that the pilot had either had to ignore other targets until the missile hit it target or that another person was needed in the aircraft to monitor the missiles while the pilot flew the plane. Finally, a third generation of missiles was introduced which had built in tracking capabilities so that the missile itself could lock onto a target and make course corrections on its own without anyone guiding it. These were referred to as fire and forget missiles because the pilot could get the lock on and fire the missile and forget about it as he directed his attention to other targets.
Problem solving and improvement making is very similar from the managers perspective. Each manager will have a different methodology based on their personality and every manager will need to evaluate how much time they must directly manage the process which is developed by the team. I personally prefer that my teams develop fire and forget plans. I prefer that the plan is developed and a person on the developing team is assigned to post the plan, evaluate it by observing the implementation periodically and report back to me and the team periodically using pre-defined metrics. This allows me to fire and forget and turn my focus to any number of other issues for which I am also responsible. I also prefer the person assigned is NOT a member of management or supervision so that a new generation of supervisors and managers can be developed and gain some experience in the process.
One of the keys to being able to do this is to have the group clearly define some metrics which can be measured and reported back. These metrics need to be as objective as possible, so they can be reported accurately and communicated. The results of these evaluations should be posted with the A3 in the work area so that everyone affected can see the results of their efforts. Here are some recommendations:
·       Put them in bullet format
·       Try to keep data gathering simple
·       Aim so that the evaluation and data gathering of the evaluation takes no longer that 1% of the time the process takes for a relatively simple process and not longer the 5% for a complex process.
·       Have specific data to report. For example: We should experience a 10% increase in productivity every week for a period of three weeks and then we should maintain at that level of productivity.
·       Schedule a follow up A3 review with the group. For example: We will meet as a group in five weeks to review the plan.

E Light STOP Observation program is based off the principal of "Stand in the Circle." It is critical that the supervisor and the champion observe the plan in action. Go and observe. This is also very helpful in Step 2. 

Expect two things to happen: Employee buy in and ownership of the plan and expect to change your plan after you implement it. These are both great results. Always keep in mind the concept of Plan, Do, Check and Act is a never-ending cycle. I have found that for every improvement we make, we find 10 more things we need to improve. Do not let this cycle get you down or bring down your crew morale. It is easy to fall into a habit of constantly finding things that are wrong. That terminology is defeating. Talk to your teams regularly and let them know you believe they are doing a great job. Also talk to them about your goal to never be satisfied with what you have achieved but to instead constantly strive to improve.

Step 4. Target Condition

Once the team has developed a clear problem statement and understanding of the current condition, and determined the root cause of the problem, they also must develop a clear picture of what they want. 
Jamie Flinchbaugh states in A3 Problem Solving: Applying Lean Thinking “Quite frankly, it is easier to skip this step than to spend time on it. What makes it easy? Our first flawed assumption is that the target condition is simply the absence of the problem, or the inverse of the current condition. This is not a useful assumption. The second reason that we skip over such an important step is that we assume this is the same thing as developing the action plan. The target condition should describe what you would see, feel or experience. The target condition is what good looks like. The coaching question to use with yourself or others is exactly that: What would ‘good’ look like?”
This is critical because it becomes the foundation of the action plan the team will develop. The action plan needs to be a plan that will get the team to this target condition. We also need to make sure that everyone involved in the process clearly understands what we are trying to accomplish.
I have made the mistake of skipping this step many times in my career. I have analyzed a problem, defined the root cause and then developed what I believed to be an incredible plan to address the problem and put into place, only to watch in frustration as the plan was not used or floundered. When discussing it later I found out that most of the reactions from the involved persons were statements such as “Why do they want me to do this?” “Who came up with this crazy idea?” or “Oh great, another process to tie me up.” I am willing to bet those reactions sound familiar.
The plan may have been a good plan, but I failed to communicate to the people involved the process we used to develop it, the problem we were trying to solve, the root cause of the problem and most importantly, what we were trying to accomplish with the plan. Therefore, the plan died because the people that had to implement didn’t understand it.
Don’t make my mistake, communicate all those things to the people that will implement the plan and the A3 is a great tool designed to do just that in a clear way that does not take a long time to read or explain.
Have the team spend some time talking about and defining what “good” looks like and then write it down in a concise statement on the A3.

Step 5: Develop the Plan
 The team now has all the information they need to develop a plan to solve the problem. I believe that if the team has
Quadrant IV: The Action Plan. Now the team needs to take everything they have learned in the process and develop an action plan that will reach the target condition. Two things are critical:
1.       The plan is clear and has objectives, deadlines and champions
2.       The plan has a clear metric, so the team and champions can determine if it is working.
Here are some things that I have picked up over the years while doing A3 problem analysis
·       Use bullet points because they are easy to read and understand
·       Avoid using terms that are easy to misunderstand or have no clear meaning, such as “better, more, increased, etc.)
·       List specific plan details. For example:
o   Employees will receive 4 hours of training in a classroom before operating machinery.
§  The training will include:
·       1 hour of pre-inspection of equipment requirements,
·       1 hour of safety requirements,
·       1 hour of company policy requirements and 1 hour of operation training.
·       Training will include actual hands on experience with the equipment to be used.
·       Use the above type language as opposed to “Employees will receive more training.”
·       List specific steps in a process if that is applicable
·    Insert a simple drawing or pictures which are very effective communication tools. Be sure to not overdo this because you do have limited space.
·       Make sure your plan specifically addresses the root cause.
·       Make sure you plan moves you towards your ideal condition
The key here is to have a plan which is specific, easy to understand and easy to read in a short period of time. Always keep in mind that the greatest plan in the world is useless if it can not be easily communicated.
Remember: You need to score a 70% or better to successfully pass the test. You will know your results when you complete, so if you scored less than the 70%, review the module again and try the test again.