More on A3 Problem Solving

from Tomas Björkholm

Scrum, Agile, Lean & Kanban- coach

A3 problem solving template

One of the core tenets of Lean Thinking is Kaizen – continuous process improvement. Toyota, one of the successful companies in the world, attributes much of their success to their highly disciplined problem solving approach. This approach is sometimes called A3 thinking (based on the single A3-size papers used to capture knowledge from each problem solving effort).
Here’s a real-life A3 problem solving example and template. This double-sided A 3 document contains an A3 problem solving template on one side and a real-life example on the other side.

A3 template

This example was developed by Tom Poppendieck and Henrik Kniberg and used in conjunction with Deep Lean 2009 in Stockholm and Agile 2009 in Chicago. The example is based on a real case, and we use it regularly when teaching and coaching lean problem solving techniques.


How to do Hansei

Re-post from Jon Miller‘s blog, “gemba panta rei

How to do Hansei By Jon Miller | Post Date: May 4, 2012 12:05 AM | Comments: 0 hansei is reflection.JPG

I am wrapping up a fairly intensive period of reflection. This week was the first board meeting since the merger of Gemba Research and Kaizen Institute nearly 18 months ago. It has been a time of challenge, opportunity and personal growth, requiring much hansei. This was about half of our work this week, the other half looking ahead. As a result, the following are a few realizations on how to do hansei. Don’t batch hansei. Reflection, learning and behavior correction is easier and better in small doses. The practices of hoshin kanri as well as the daily management / leader standard work build in regular reviews for the purpose of learning and course correction. Don’t wait 12-18 months for a review, no matter how major the project or how busy you may be. Reflect as a team. It’s not easy to hold up the mirror steadily and gaze honestly at yourself. It is better to give and take feedback from multiple outside perspectives. While it’s not impossible to do hansei on one’s own, it’s immeasurably better to do so as a team. Do hansei whenever you have an expectation. An expectation is a desire to see a particular output as a result of a process. We need to compare target (expectation) versus actual when doing hansei. Also, whenever we expected to see a result cannot, we also need to do hansei, and take action to correct the situation. The reflection on the hansei process reminded me of a bit of eastern wisdom that goes “Know yourself, know what is good, know when to stop”. This is amazing advice in almost any situation. Applied to hansei, Know yourself. This is the gist of hansei, an honest reflection on the self as an individual or the team as a unit. Know what is good. Have a target to compare against and reflect upon. Hansei is less an exchange of opinions about a situation and more an honest look at the facts. Know when to stop. The purpose of hansei is not to beat ourselves into a pulp or to express every dissatisfaction and every missed expectation. We must know when we have done sufficient reflection to identify a few actionable lessons. Stop while you are ahead and end reflection on a positive note if all possible. There is a fundamental cultural difference between cultures, regions and within organization when it comes to facing up to faults and failures, accepting responsibility, and learning. The capacity to reflect may be what separate homo sapiens from animals, successful organizations from those less so. Kaizen, the PDCA cyclehansei and the scientific method are all instances of the same principle. In general the more time we spend on Check and Act, the more effective our Plans and Doings will be. This is the spirit of hansei.

Read more: Lean Manufacturing Blog, Kaizen Articles and Advice | Gemba Panta Rei

Lean Lego Game

This post is from Martin Boersema‘s awesome “Lean Simulations blog“. I just found the site and I’m blown away with the amount of cool stuff Martin has collected.

Watch your senior management scramble to sort Lego against the clock in this Lean Lego Game, designed to illustrate how Lean and Agile techniques can make your process more efficient. This proven Lego game was designed by Danilo Sato and Francisco Trindade and presented at Agile 2008 and 2009.

The large pack of files includes clear instructions and professional presentation material. Everything you need to run your own version of the game is included, except the bricks.

Covering many Lean concepts including waste (the seven wastes), inventory buffers and kanban, kaizen and workcells, it’s perfect for facilitating your own Lego session, whether you’re implementing Lean in software development or on a manufacturing shop floor.

This game runs for 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on whether you want to run the long or short version. The long version includes an extra iteration of the game.

In short:  Professional.

Clear. Comprehensive. Adaptable.

Key Files:

  • Facilitator Guide
  • Slides (Long and Short Version)
  • Building Instructions
  • Team Instructions

The production quality of the game material is top notch. The facilitator’s guide is easy to follow and the slides are approaching Steve Jobs-like quality (i.e. excellent).

With the emphasis on software development, it will fit right into your Agile training session, while some minor massaging of the material will be necessary for a manufacturing or other Lean environment.

The Game:

The game is played with 4 teams of operators who work different stations.

  1. First team sorts the Lego bricks into colours
  2. Second team sorts the bricks into different sizes (keeping colours separated)
  3. Third team sorts the bricks into specific lots required to build a Lego house
  4. Fourth team takes specified bricks and builds a house according to the instructions

Round 1 – Push System

  • Teams sort and build as fast as possible. Inventory piles up. Chaos ensues. Debrief. Discuss waste, inventory, 7 wastes, push vs pull, kanban.
  • Make sure you motivate your team with the included posters!

Round 2 – Pull system

Install buffer limits between stations and only build when buffers empty. Debrief. Discuss solving unleveled process and the concept of a work cell.

Round 3 – Work Cell

Simultaneous house construction in work cells. Debrief. Discuss concept of kaizen.

Round 4 – Kaizen

Kaizen. Teams allowed to change what they want to improve process. Conclusion and final debrief.

Here’s a video of the Lean Lego game in action:


Overall, this is a very well presented game. It has clear instructions and appears to be easy to teach people due to the simplicity. I love the push vs. pull approach between rounds 1 and 2. It clearly illustrates the benefits of Lean and reducing WIP.

In Round 3, the work cell concept is discussed and demonstrated clearly. I would have liked to see a break-up of the building of the house to level the process, rather than building 4 identical structures at the same time. Perhaps a 2 person work cell for building, each doing half a house would work better.

But I come from a manufacturing background, so perhaps that’s my own preconceptions bubbling to the surface! I’d be interested if anyone separated the building aspect into two parts as a kaizen during any of the sessions run at the Agile conferences.

You can request all the material to run your own session of this game from Danilo Sato or Francisco Trindade.

Here’s a photoset of the Lean Lego game being played on Flickr.

As always, please comment if you’ve had any experience playing this game or running a session. Also hop on over to the creators’ blogs and share your comments there.

I’ve added this game to my growing list of Lean games and simulations.

Martin has even provided a link to the slides!

This post is from the “Lean Simulations blog“.

Making Toast the Lean Way

Learning About Process Improvement

Narrated by and featuring Bruce Hamilton, Shingo Prize Recipient and GBMP President, this 27-minute video highlights the seven deadly wastes found in both administrative offices and in manufacturing processes. In this training tool, the process of making toast is used to represent the before condition and the target condition of a manufacturing or transaction-based process and helps your people to identify with the process of Kaizen(small and continuous improvements). Whether you are already on the Continuous Improvement journey or you are just beginning to realize the power of continuous improvement implementation, this video is an essential learning tool for your entire workforce.

Some Lean Terms Visually

Communicating Lean principles, concepts, and terminology can be tricky. Many Lean terms originate in Japanese, introducing a barrier to understanding. In an effort to sidestep the language barrier, Stappan Noteberg posted this presentation on I think it’s an innovative way to show some Lean ideas and hope you think it’s worth a look. 😉

Bob Hubbard, Sept 2010

A Stapffan Noteberg presentation on

Kaizen Principle: Bias for Action

from Mark Hamel’s Gemba Tales blog:

Several days ago, during a health care value stream analysis, I was impressed with the team’s bias for action. Now we know that value stream mapping is typically a “paper” activity, but it was refreshing to see that one of the future state’s kaizen bursts, identified as a “just-do-it,” couldn’t wait. The team completed the just-do-it right before the wrap-up presentation. Outstanding!

Kaizen is founded on certain principles, one of which is a bias for action. This bias for action is largely a behavioral thing, but it can be facilitated by effective coaching, formal training, and the application of lean management systems and related visual controls that should absolutely scream for action.

  1. Think PDCA and SDCA, the basic scientific methods.
  2. Go to the gemba; observe and document reality.
  3. Ask “why?” five times to identify root causes.
  4. Be dissatisfied with the status quo.
  5. Kaizen what matters.
  6. Have a bias for action.
  7. Frequent, small incremental improvements drive big, sustainable improvements.
  8. Be like MacGyver; use creativity before capital.
  9. Kaizen is everyone’s job.
  10. No transformation without transformation leadership.

Plus – Do everything with humility and respect for the individual.

The combined dissatisfaction with the status quo (eyes for waste  “see” the current state and the ideal state) and the existence of explicit performance gaps that are targeted for closure (kaizen what matters) should be unbearable enough to drive action. And, our action should be focused on appropriately and economically (Macgyver was a creative cheapskate) addressing the root causes (5 why’s and PDCA thinking) and then sustaining the performance (SDCA).

So, I’ll leave you with another bias for action story, surprisingly also within a value stream analysis backdrop. Tony, the plant manager, was participating in a combined value stream analysis/plant lay-out/3P activity for a brand new line. As we developed pro forma standard work and were doing table top and plant floor simulations applying, among other things continuous flow, he had a eureka moment. Actually, I noticed that he was becoming quite agitated and then…he disappeared. Over an hour later, Tony returned. He informed the team that he couldn’t stand it when he realized that the same principles needed to be applied to existing lines. So, right away, he made sure that the other lines (granted, without standard work at the time) stop their evil batch and queue ways and go to single piece flow. By the next day, the old lines had demonstrated an 18% productivity improvement. Now, that’s bias for action!

By the way, there’s a good chance that Gemba Tales is looking like an HTML file – no pics, no nice looking template. That’s because my web host, Network Solutions has continued to have problems. They keep promising to fix it, but I’m feeling more and more that their last name should not be “Solutions.” Thanks for your patience

from Mark Hamel’s Gemba Tales blog:


aizen… is a system of continuous improvement in quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety and leadership.

Kaizen was created in Japan following World War II. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”. It comes from the Japanese words 改 (“kai”) which means “change” or “to correct” and 善 (“zen”) which means “good”.

Kaizen is a system that involves every employee – from upper management to the cleaning crew. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It is continuous. Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented.

In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste.

Suggestions are not limited to a specific area such as production or marketing. Kaizen is based on making changes anywhere that improvements can be made. Western philosophy may be summarized as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Kaizen philosophy is to “do it better, make it better, improve it even if it isn’t broken, because if we don’t, we can’t compete with those who do.”

Kaizen in Japan is a system of improvement that includes both home and business life. Kaizen even includes social activities. It is a concept that is applied in every aspect of a person’s life.

In business Kaizen encompasses many of the components of Japanese businesses that have been seen as a part of their success. Quality circles, automation, suggestion systems, just-in-time delivery, Kanban and 5S are all included within the Kaizen system of running a business.

Kaizen involves setting standards and then continually improving those standards. To support the higher standards Kaizen also involves providing the training, materials and supervision that is needed for employees to achieve the higher standards and maintain their ability to meet those standards on an on-going basis.