The A3 Management Process

In this season of economic distress and cost containment, security functions must concentrate on the things that matter most, because there is absolutely nothing elegant about excess! Lean is one of the pathways to operational excellence: It is about doing more of what matters by getting rid of what does not — getting rid of the waste, getting rid of the overload and getting rid of the inconsistency. What would your customer love for you to eliminate or reduce? That’s the framing question we must ask.

The Lean philosophy is comprised of three equal and inseparable components — Value from the Customers Perspective, Continuous Improvement through Waste Elimination and Respect for People.

How do you connect emotionally with your customer? Sometimes the most compelling solutions are perceptual and emotional in nature. We focus on and are good at the value side of the equation — quality, cost and speed, but what we forget about is the emotional side of why those things are important. Harley Davidson, Disney, McDonalds and Starbucks are a few of the companies that excel at selling the intangibles. Harley Davidson does not just sell motorcycles, Disney does not only operate theme parks, McDonalds does not just sell hamburgers and Starbucks does not only sell coffee. A lot of what security delivers to customers cannot be quantified, but when you understand, focus on, highlight and deliver intangible value, the payback is immeasurable.

Learn to see. Some of the most obvious answers come about simply by getting out more — understanding your customer. You must physically get out into your organization to hear, listen and feel. Sometimes we get in the trap of just asking customers what they want or delivering exactly what they said they wanted. It takes more than that; many times the customer does not really know what they want. Triangulate around that customer — become them, infiltrate them and involve them in the design and/or improvement of your security program.

Let Learning Lead — A3 as a Management Process
One tool that is core to the Toyota Production System is the A3 management process. A3 thinking turns routine managing into cumulative learning for the whole organization. The widespread adoption of the A3 process standardizes a methodology for innovating, planning, problem-solving and building foundational structures for sharing a broader and deeper form of thinking. This produces organizational learning that is deeply rooted in the work itself — operational learning.

What is an A3?
The term “A3” refers to an international-size piece of paper, one that is approximately 11-by-17 inches. Within Toyota and other lean companies, the term means much more.

Toyota’s insight many years ago was that every issue an organization faces can and should be captured on a single sheet of paper. This enables everyone touching the issue to see through the same lens. While the basic thinking for an A3 follows a common logic, the precise format and wording are flexible, and most organizations tweak the design to fit their unique requirements.

The A3 is like a resume that can be adapted in layout, style and emphasis according to the person seeking the job and the type of job being sought. Practitioners can adapt the format to fit the requirements of each situation.

On a single page, an A3 typically includes the following elements:

• Title: Names problem, theme or issue;
• Owner /Date: Identifies who “owns” the problem or issue and the date of the latest revision;
• Background: Establishes the business context and importance of the issue;
• Current Conditions: Describes what is currently known about the problem or issue;
• Goals /Targets: The desired outcome;
• Analysis: Analyzes the situation and the underlying causes that have created the gap between the current situation and the desired outcome;
• Proposed Countermeasures: Proposes some corrective actions or countermeasures to address the problem, close the gap or reach a goal;
• Plan: Prescribes an action plan of who will do what and when they will do it, in order to reach the goal; and
• Follow-up: Creates a review/learning process and anticipates remaining issues.
The A3 management process is an excellent way to solve problems, gain agreement, mentor and lead.

If you would like to contribute your insights or suggestions, please email them to me at Derrick_Wright@Baxter.Com.

Derrick Wright, CPP, is the security manager for Baxter Healthcare, Cherry Hill, N.J. With more than 19 years of progressively higher management experience in a highly regulated pharmaceutical manufacturing environment, he has built a converged security program that focuses on top-of-mind business issues as well as technology interoperability to support improved business processes. Derrick is a member of the Security Executive Council and the Convergence Council of the Open Security Exchange (OSE).