I’m in San Antonio Texas today, visiting my good friend, Mark Roenigk. Mark and the team at Rackspace are doing some amazing things in the background that ultimately lead to improvements for the customer experience. As some of you may know, Rackspace headquarters is in a big shopping mall that they turned into their corporate office. It’s actually really cool. Oh, Rackspace is a web hosting company.
Well, during our visit, we sat by a wall full of A3’s (I didn’t take a picture of the A3 wall – sorry). It was clear that Rackspace is using A3 thinking to thoroughly solve business problems and thereby ultimately improve the customer experience.
For those unfamiliar with A3 thinking, it’s simple. A3 is an approach to problem solving that is extensively used at Toyota. If you think of it, A3 Thinking is essentially Lean codified on an 11×17 piece of paper. The elements on the A3 are essentially Plan-Do-Check-Act. Now, I know what you’re thinking – super simple and simplistic, right?
Here’s why: it always takes 2 to A3.
What does that mean? Well, here’s the power of A3 thinking.
A3 Thinking as a Teaching Tool
It always takes 2 to A3 means that there’s a mentor and a student. The mentor is well-versed in A3 thinking and can help the student go through each step of PDCA in solving the problem at hand.
A3 Thinking as a Leadership Development Platform
Because there’s a mentor involved, this gives the student an opportunity to develop both as a problem solver and also a leader. As we all know, almost all solutions to problems involve some level of change management. And, change management is essentially leadership and influence. So, A3 thinking can help one develop as a leader.
A3 Thinking as a Problem Solving Approach
Now, the most obvious benefit from A3 thinking is its capability to help solve tough problems through the application of PDCA. I go through the details of how A3 thinking can help us solve tough problems and I even provide a free A3 Template Download here.
Honestly, explaining the A3 in a blog post won’t do it justice. But here’s what will.
Use A3 Thinking Today.
That’s right. Practice A3 thinking right now, but, well, actually doing it. That’s how you’ll learn. Practice over Theory. At least that’s what Taiichi Ohno believed.
A Real A3 From Toyota
To help you get on your way, watch the brief video below and download a free A3 Template – it’s an actual A3 from my time at Toyota. It’s pretty old, but still instructive. Note: I created this video a while ago and it might as well be an audio file, since I didn’t actually do anything with video. You’ll see. Anyways.