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While the A3 problem solving format combines the essentialism of fitting the most pertinent information into a single A3 or 11x17 format with a standardized approach to solving problems, the paper size has also found use in other key approaches on projects. While there was a reported push at Toyota to standardize on the even smaller A3 (8.5x11) paper format, in our industry the practice of bringing the most important information to bear on an A3 (sometimes more than one) is a work in progress with many benefits. Some of the common additional uses of A3s we have seen are detailed below.

A3 Format Project Dashboards

Looking to simplify the project status reporting structure, Lean teams sometimes develop simple and effective project dashboards in an A3 format. Like the A3 Report the idea of the dashboard is to present the most important project status information in an easy-to-understand visual format all of which fits on a single 11x17 paper size.

Like a dashboard in a car, a project dashboard should convey to stakeholder and leaders the current state, any red flags and general operational status of the project within a very quick and easy to understand time frame. We are trying to convey the most essential information to give the customers of the A3 dashboard a quick snapshot of status, but most importantly to identify any red flags or warning lights that would warrant further investigation. This should also be a tool for the project team to measure progress against goals (e.g. profit pool on an IPD project, PPC, milestones, etc) at any given time.

Figure 1 - Example Project Dashboard

A3 Format RFP and Proposals

Another implementation of the 11x17 format to encourage providing the most essential information is in the context of proposals on Lean or IPD projects. Fewer have made the leap in making proposal requests in an A3 Format (A3 RFP) but some proposers challenged to provide proposal information in a single A3 format eliminating the often-used boilerplate information that makes up more traditional proposals. In many cases when an A3 proposal is requested, more than one page of A3 is allowed, for example one page for the team and one for the project approach. However the general intent is to avoid “boilerplate” to focus instead on what is essential for a particular project.

Submitting a proposal in a streamlined A3 format implies an understanding of what the customer really needs to know from our proposing team and providing only that information fit for that purpose. From a customer perspective, using the A3 proposal to select a project team member, seeing the elements the proposer decided to be essential enough to include in the A3 can be instrumental to the decision-making process. Some construction owners have even gone to lengths to issue RFPs in an A3 format – attempting to impose the same kind of essentialism to on themselves to express what they are looking for in project team members.

Figure 2 - Example A3 Proposal from a Healthcare Project

A3 Format General Retrospectives

A ‘specific’ retrospective would likely utilize the standard A3 problem solving approach since the analysis and recommendation is applied to a particular outcome which did not meet expectations.

When teams conduct more general retrospectives, for example at transition or completion of project phases or after end user occupancy, the outcomes of those retrospectives can also be captured within an A3 format for convenience in sharing and access, especially in a learning organization. An outcome of a general retrospective in this approach should also be that any open questions or lessons learned, could well be a catalyst for a more specific A3 development to develop a countermeasure to a specific topic.

The A3 format is continuously being adapted to new uses. While some reporting functions may not share the collaborative and alignment nature of the problem-solving methodology, for teams advancing in their use of A3, each application contributes generating leaning and sharing. What other uses have you seen?

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Christian Pikel, managing principal and lead coach for The ReAlignment Group, Ltd., brings a unique insight and novel approach to lean/IPD coaching for teams and organizations. His ability to coach, teach and facilitate is defined by a diverse career spanning two decades in the design and construction industry as design/build trade manager, preconstruction and project developer/consultant and then owner for a major healthcare network. This is coupled with Christian’s nine years of experience as student and practitioner of lean construction and engagement with over 30 IPD projects in roles of collaborator, leader and coach. Christian is an LCI Improved instructor and CoreClarity™ Certified Facilitator.