Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A3s, nice and easy

Here are a few tips on how to draft great A3 team charters.

First, undertand what A3s are all about. A3s define projects intended either to etablish standard work where there is none, or to adjust standard work that is not delivering the expected or required results. A3 team charters define these projects in all their essential details. Normally, A3s include a problem or "issue" statement that clearly establishes the motive for your project, and a target statement that creates both a framework for measurement and definite expectations of "how much" improvement is required.

Before you set pencil to paper to write your problem or issue statement, be sure to draw a chart that illustrates the troublesome trend in your performance that necessitates action. And include a comparative value or benchmark to put the numbers into context for your audience (i.e., your fellow managers). Are you falling behind your competitors? By how much? Are you failing to comply with government regulations? How bad is it? Make the chart tell the story...

Before you write your target statement, draw a chart that illustrates how you will know that the cause of the problem has been addressed, as it were, "at the root."

Once you have visually charted both the problem and the target, make your problem and target statements "speak" to the charts. Don't wander into the weeds. Keep your focus!

Here are a few problem and target statement "don'ts"
  1. Don't define the problem as the failure to do something you have proposed in the past.
  2. Don't analyze the causes of the problem in the problem statement.
  3. Don't inlcude project milestones in your problem chart. Save project milestones for the "project plan" section of your A3 team charter.
  4. And in your target statement don't explain what you plan to do. Save that for the "proposed action" section of the A3 team charter.
  5. Don't try to put the A3 on letter size paper. This will only give your managers license to go on and on about what's wrong with the organization. I have seen "broken" A3s that run to 13 pages!
Here is are some important A3 "do's"
  1. Do invest in software upgrades that enable your managers to print from Microsoft Office and other frequently used programs directly to PDF files.
  2. Do invest in enough printers capable of printing tabloid size paper (I recently purchased an HP Officejet Pro 8600).
  3. Do train your managers in how to print A3s that have been saved as PDF files formatted as tabloid size documents.
  4. Do share your A3s physically; don't rely on purely electronic sharing unless you are willing to spend money on large monitors!

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