The development of a proper A3 involves several stakeholders, working as a team. In this post, I illustrate the process graphically.
The diagram below illustrates the A3 development process. It is not specific to a particular problem or situation.
The tool used to illustrate this graphically is the swim-lane. What is a swim-lane? It is a type of flowchart that, in addition to showing the sequence of process steps, also takes into account the actors involved. The name swim-lane comes from each participant having an assigned “lane” in which the specific steps he/she performs are shown.
What does a swim-lane buy us above and beyond a simpler flowchart? For one, the swim-lane diagram makes it possible to highlights hand-offs — typically, where information is lost, and certain errors occur. Furthermore, if there are several consecutive hand-offs between the same two actors, say, this may be indicative of a process that needs to be rethought and streamlined or made more efficient.
Also, a swim-lane makes it evident when joint participation by two or more actors occurs or is required — shown as a process step straddling lane boundaries. Finally, a swim-lane can be used to point out (via a vertical bar that cuts across lanes) that certain actors need to be in sync and specific actions completed before actions downstream (to the right) of the bar can occur.
The general flow above is from left to right, but please note that a swim-lane can be drawn in top-down fashion instead, with actors/roles shown across the top. If needed, a timeline can be shown along the other edge of the diagram (along bottom or top in above swim-lane.)
The typical roles shown above include the A3 analyst, the customer, the analyst’s mentor, and the analyst’s team, who also provide input and feedback. While not all these roles are indispensable in all situations, and while others may well be added depending on the specifics of a problem, the mentor role is one that is advantageous to maintain as people gain experience with the A3 thinking aid. As stated in an earlier post, the A3 development process should be one of iterative discovery, and can be almost Socratic in its enabling of the mentor-analyst relationship.