While a huge volume of literature exists concerning Toyota Motor Corp.’s production system, far less has been said about the way the company manages people to develop and maintain a culture of continuous organisational learning.
As with the RATIO model, Toyota has developed a way to solve problems that generates knowledge and helps people doing the work learn how to learn. Company managers use a model called the A3 (named after the international paper size on which it fits) as a means to widely share the deep level of thinking that lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success.
An A3 is composed of a sequence of steps (seven in most examples) arrayed in a single template.
The principles are simple but, as with most things, the devil is in the details and this is where the RATIO methods can help you greatly. As you will see if you do a Google search about the A3 model, the content of A3 templates varies greatly with only one obvious common denominator, the visualisation of the problem resolution process. Since Event Mapping was designed as a visual communication tool from the outset, it can help you greatly to materialize the different steps of the A3 problem solving model.
However, RATIO and A3 reports — and more importantly the underlying thinking — play more than just a practical role; they also embody a more critical core strength of a lean company.
A3s serve as mechanisms for managers to mentor others in root-cause analysis and scientific thinking, while also aligning the interests of individuals and departments throughout the organization by encouraging productive dialogue and helping people learn from one another.
The ultimate goal is not just to solve the problem at hand, but to make the process of problem solving transparent and teachable in a manner that creates an organization full of thinking, learning problem solvers.