Friday, October 5, 2012

Toyota's Secret

The A3 tool that Toyota has used for years to sustain success is much more than a problem solving tool, though it is excellent for that too.  The strength, and perhaps not so obvious, lies in the cultural impact and relationship building it fosters. 

One way the culture is impacted by instilling a troubleshooting mindset amongst employees.  Cultivating this attitude vertically, top to bottom, is powerful.  Issues are identified at various levels and can be solved with cross-functional teams.  Sustainable countermeasures can be delivered through team work incorporating experience and enthusiasm. A3 also works well because it empowers employees, a valuable motivator.  This is the lubricant that keeps the machine in motion, propelling the company ahead of the competition.

Another way A3 impacts the culture is by aligning interests of people and departments.  This directs the energy constructively, resulting in positive change that is meaningful; progress fuels the process.

Numerous iterations teach the people resilience - don't give up.  This makes cracking the really tough problems more likely - one of Toyota's secret weapons.

The relationships that form and strengthen through this process make the team more robust and better poised to manage conflict. Healthy conflict is essential for growth.

Technically, the tool is simple and powerful.  The author states A3 as "standardized storytelling."  Storytelling has long been regarded as an effective way to engage people.  The pictures communicate the story quickly and succinctly.  A3 is grounded in proven scientific methods; the secret is in the application of the tool that brings people together and shapes the culture into one of continuous improvement and operational excellence.


  1. Hi Jeanine,

    Great job explaining Toyota's A3 tool. I love the idea of having all the information to strategize on one 11x17 page. It allows me to spend my time thinking about the information than waste it flipping through other sources and compiling information from each source.

    I was trying to search for other companies that use this method (maybe not officially called A3),and had a difficult time finding any. Do you know of any?

  2. I don't know of any that use the A3 tool either. I wonder why it isn't more popular?

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Jeanine,

    As I mentioned, I did some searching on the web to find other companies that use the A3 tool and didn't have much luck. So then I started searching for why A3 isn't very popular and still can't seem to find anything. So frustrating. What I did learn is that I should not call it a "tool" according to the following website:

    A3 is a critical way of thinking and should not be confused as a "tool".