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A3 Problem Solving is a continuous improvement approach developed by Toyota. Apart from problem solving, Toyota also uses it for business proposals and tracking status of various objectives. A3 refers to the standard paper size (11 inch by 17 inch) and all relevant details are summarized in this one sheet.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Premkumar T on 17th Nov 2020.


Applause for all the respondents - Glory Gerald, Premkumar T, Sanat Kumar.


Q 314. A3, apart from being a standard paper size, is also a powerful problem solving technique. What is A3 Problem Solving and how does it help build a culture of continuous improvement?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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A3 Problem Solving:

It’s a practice started in Toyota later adapted in lean methodology.

There is a huge difference between the movies before the 1930 and after, yes your guess is rights its about the sound.

The same logic applies when we discuss about the problem in shop floor with or without a Print / Soft copy document which describes the Problem status.




To bridge the gap, A3 Problem solving tool in place.




A Typical A3 Problem solving tool standard, looks as above.

(The Yellow text box comments indicates “HOW TO”)


The sequence of A3 tool as follows:

1)      Theme or Brief about the problem (one or two line)

2)      Current (initial condition) in a quantified way

3)      Target, in specific

4)      List of action with Plan vs Actual

5)      Peformance indicators for visualing the progress

6)      Closure with Signature

This is is not a one time document, its to be used whenever required. It serves in following situation, during the problem solving for discussion, communicate to the team and then for learning (reference) for future.

An unique nature in this tool, there is no specific time line to complete the standard.

Based on the severity of the problem, shall differ.

Although the A3 is typically on one page in size, there can be additional pages for backup documenting.

A better processs to start, ask the project leader for a proposal using A3 without formatted layout and fine tune it with format for a noble A3.

Also A3 (297mm x 420mm) tool, shall customize it to suit the requirement for solving any problem.


Apart from the format & how to use it, further will discuss about how its helps for building a continuous improvement culture.

The composite essence for building any continuous improvement culture are:

i)                    Simple in use

ii)                   Communication

iii)                 Innovation / Kaizen

All the above three components are well harmonized with A3.

A3 – for usage its very simple, when compared to other tools

A3 – Its ease to communicate a single A3 sheet, continuous improvement is a complicated “THE MINDSET” able to disrupt because of its minimal size when compared to other tools.

A3 – Any innovation / kaizen able to fit in A3, may need a detailed back up its apart but when considering a quick, simple to prepare and ease to communicate A3 is well ahead.


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Introduction: A3 Problem solving technique is used for continuous improvement efforts in many organizations. It is a lean approach that was originally created by Toyota with the objective of in depth problem solving and help people and teams to work together. The term "A3" is derived from European paper size that is measured as 11 inch by 17 inch. It was used by Toyota to solve a problem, to report on project status and to make a process change proposal. 


The A3 Problem solving technique is based on Deming's Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA) method, and the steps involved are explained in detail below: 




  1. Background: Identify and briefly describe the problem by stating how the problem impacts the strategic business objectives around customers, process, financials, new products, etc.
  2. Current Situation: Explain the current situation using data and statistics. Use process mapping to map the different tasks surrounding the issue.
  3. Target or Goal: Define the goals based on the improvement desired as a result of the exercise. Ideally the future state, also set a timeframe for completing the goals.
  4. Root Cause Analysis: Perform Root Cause Analysis (RCA) of the problem identified by using various quality tools such as data analysis, cause and effect diagram, 5 Why analysis. Sufficient time has to be spent in this section as long as the root causes of the problem are identified.
  5. Countermeasures: Propose Solutions or corrective actions in order to address the root causes identified.
  6. Implementation Plan: Develop/design a plan for implementing the proposes solutions/corrective actions . Assign owners who shall be responsible in implementing the proposed solutions along with timelines.
  7. Implement: Implement the proposed solutions as planned post receiving all the necessary approvals from the management. Solutions can be implemented on a small scale as beta test.
  8. Verification:  The team should measure the impact of the solutions implemented and see if the proposed solutions has worked or not, If no, check for alternative solutions, create a new plan, implement the same and evaluate the results again.
  9. Follow Up, Standardize and Improve: If the plan has worked with positive results, communicate the same to the intended parties. Standardize the process changes and improvements and update SOPs accordingly.

A3 Problem solving technique is a structured process and provides necessary documentation for continuous improvement efforts in any organization. It is an effective visual tool for driving improvement and promoting a problem solving way of thinking as it brings the continuous improvement mindset within the participating team members.

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A3 which is commonly referred in terms of paper size “11.7*16.5” inches.  A3 is also an important problem solving “lean management” tool introduced by Toyota.


A3 Report is a single page document, which highlights the problem and solution for whole process.

There are 7 Major elements of A3 Report are:

1)      Background – highlighting the problems at hand

2)      Current Situation – elaborates and highlights current baseline performance. Also highlight “As-is situation”

3)      Target Setting – Establishing and validating target the improvement opportunity

4)      RCA- Root cause analysis of the problem identified using different technique

5)      Improvement plans- Project team based upon the RCA define the improvement plans

6)      Implementation – Creating implementation plan to deploy improvements

7)      Follow up- Conduct training, points to share, pending actions so on



Apart from that other component “Team Charters”, “Scoping”, “CTQ”, “Defect Definition” could be added as part of A3 solution.


How does A3 format helps?


As per the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Same is the purpose of A3, instead of looking problem in isolation, A3 problem solving technique advices that process should sit together and try to understand the problem at hand, do a deep dive analysis to find the root cause (which requires collaboration of the team which could be cross functional) before designing the improvement plans.


Benefits of A3 problem technique

·         Promotes the culture of reaching the root cause of the problem, rather than working symptoms

·         A3 report helps in presenting the case to higher management, used for training and coaching

·         Promotes collaborative effort by team

·         Solution deployed are discussed with the project team hence reduces the risk

·         Structured method and ease to use

·         It is easily modified and could be replicated


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