Introducing the A3 – part 5: fixes and follow-up

Having concluded the A3 analysis phase per the previous post, one now can move to the action/correction stage, which consists of five steps.

 Developing an A3 step by step: implementing the fixes

Step 5: Defining the target state

Moving on to the right side of the A3, you should have an idea of what the ideal situation or target state would be — no, not moving to Hawai’i, just for this problem.

a)      Draw/describe the goal state as best you can.  Lay out the revised process, state the new situation in numbers, using a process diagram, a graph, etc.

b)      Describe the positive changes inside “fluffy clouds.” Each fix should result in a “fluffy cloud”, and correspond to an earlier problem in its “spiky cloud.”

c)      Check that all problems/issues raised have been addressed. If not, explain.

Note 1: you still haven’t said how to get to this improved situation from the current state.

Note 2: the target state need not be “perfect”, as long as the improvement proposed is significant, verifiable, and sustainable.

Note 3: some like to describe the target state as a goal and have it almost at the top of the Analysis (left side) of the A3. In my opinion, it is best left at the top of the right side, because one needs to have drilled down to root causes (the last step in Analysis) to be able to describe a desirable target state. With experience, you can be somewhat flexible about this.


Step 6: Listing the fixes

Move down.  This is where you list the fixes or countermeasures.

a)      Describe what needs to be done so that you and your customer can go from the undesirable current state to the ideal/target one.

b)      This is where the rubber meets the road. If you have not scoped the issue narrowly enough, and done root cause analysis properly, the fixes will likely be too vague or broad/impractical.  If you find this happening, the best thing to do is to go back and rework the A3 from scratch. Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you are putting pencil to paper for this, remember, the eraser is your friend.

There are variations on the layout of the A3, and in some the countermeasures and the implementation plan (see below) are combined into one.  Neither is wrong, it is a matter of preference.


 Step 7: Implementation plan: who does what and when

Move down. With a list of countermeasures in mind, comes the implementation plan, or “who does what and when” part.

a)      Together with your customer, you assign responsibilities so all this moves forward and does not stagnate or fizzle.

b)      Don’t forget to list the outcome of every action. The outcome is the deliverable. Be specific. Consider this  a sort of mini-project plan.

This is where having true customer buy-in from the start pays off.  If you start getting surprised looks and push-back at this stage, you know what likely happened.  Get buy-in early, or be prepared to fail.


Step 8: testing the fixes

Move down.  Next, you have to say how you intend to test your implementation.

a)      How will you know the changes are working?

b)      How will you know if tweaks are needed?

In PI parlance, there is something called a Rapid Cycle Test (RCT). This is another term for a “pilot study”, where you test the fix for a short time, on a limited number of subjects, in a restricted physical area, etc.  Irrespective of the name, you need to think of how best to test the proposed fix before proceeding with a full-blown implementation.


Step 9: Follow-up

Finally, assuming you have implemented your fixes, you get to the follow-up. People complain about paying taxes, and they often find the follow-up tedious. Still, just like the bright side of paying taxes is that you have an income, so the follow-up means you have put a fix in place.  Do not neglect it.

a)      The follow-up is where you need to come up with some dates when you and your customer will get together to revisit the issue (say, quarterly) and see how things are holding up, or if more needs to be done.

b)      As mentioned, you’re not quite done once the implementation is in place. You should maintain a relationship with your customer, so that the topic and results can be revisited periodically.

Remember you are not only in a process analyst role, but indirectly a marketing one.  By maintaining  open communication lines with your customer, you may also be able to generate additional PI work for yourself and your colleagues.


Action/Correction: final remarks

After you add your name, that of your manager, and the date at the top, the right side of the A3 is done.  For now, that is.

Don’t forget to present your work to your colleagues at team meetings, if your situation allows for it.

With a complete A3 to your credit, you can proudly call yourself…a beginner.








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