On September 26th, 2014, Finance and Business Operations Division (FBOD) employees celebrated a year of learning about the Lean A3 problem solving tool with an “A3 Fair” in the Chinook Building.
Fiscal Specialist Charla McCoy discusses her A3 project with the audience.
“This year, we wanted every single employee to be trained on A3; that was one of our goals,” said FBOD Director Ken Guy. “But we wanted to take it a step further and actually apply that training. That is what you are seeing today. We wanted to strengthen our problem-solving muscles and ultimately become expert problem solvers. I think we are on the journey to do that with these demonstration projects.”
The A3 report is a single sheet of paper (the tool is named after the size of paper typical used at Toyota, where it originated) that succinctly defines the problem, the root-cause analysis, the corrective actions or countermeasures to be implemented, and the action plan for implementation.
The A3 can seem daunting at first; it is more important to develop the thinking behind the A3 than to master the A3 report itself.
The A3 format illustrated on a white board by Phuong Nguyen, a project/program manager.
The eight A3s featured at the Fair are improving numerous county business processes, including streamlined financial reporting, simplified contracting, and stronger invoice accountability. Just as importantly, these improvements have saved employees time and headaches. Fiscal Specialist Charla McCoy’s A3 project, for example, has saved her a full hour a day that she can now dedicate to other work.
FBOD employees Alisa Bui and Renee Richards were also enthusiastic about how the A3 has helped them bridge communication challenges with their co-workers and with other departments. Prior to the A3 initiative, Bui had tried in vain for two years to get help fixing a problem that was causing her hours of unnecessary work each month. The A3 helped her explain the problem she experienced to others; but she also learned that 270 other business processes would be affected by her proposed solution. She and Richards are now working on a comprehensive solution that addresses the issue for all 271 business functions that are affected.
FBOD employees have also begun using the A3 tool to present project proposals and status updates.