A3 Practical Problem Solving – Step 1 Problem Clarification

Welcome to Part 1 of our 8 part mini series on the A3 Practical Problem Solving method. Starting with Step 1 Problem Clarification.

The purpose of these short video blogs are to give you a brief overview for each of the steps in the A3 Practical Problem Solving method. The approach is based on Toyota Business Practice.

The videos are presented by Peter Watkins a Senior Coach at LEA and the Key Points are explained using our Visual Teach Poster.

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification teach poster

The top half of our teach Poster focuses on the Purpose, Process & People.

This is covered in our FREE Skill Level 1 course on A3 Practical Problem Solving – ACCESS HERE

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification. Bottom half of Visual Teach Poster

A3 Practical Problem Solving – Step 1 Problem Clarification

However for this blog series we will concentrate on the lower half of the teach poster.

The video series will give you an initial overview of the basic thinking way behind each of the 8 steps to solve a problem.

There is also a brief description of the Key Learning Points from the video to reflect on and some helpful hints when completeing the step.

Play the Video Overview for A3 Practical Problem Solving – Step 1 Problem Clarification

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Key Learning Points from the Video

What is Problem Clarification / Definition ?

Example of  gap

Example of Practical Problem Solving A3 – Step1 Problem Clarification

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.Whats the GAP Diagram

It starts with understanding the “GAP?”.

So to clarify or define a problem you are looking for a ‘GAP’ i.e. a difference between where you want/expect to be and where you actually are in simple numerical terms.

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.Leapers digging for problems

Lean Thinkers always start any improvement activity by asking this Question “What’s the Problem to Solve”

So understanding and seeing the 8 Wastes in your work will help you identify the problems you need to solve. So you can then close GAP’s in performance KPI’s or GAP’s need to meet improvement goals

Everyone in the organisation should be able to identify and clarify problems to solve correctly

What’s the “Ultimate Goal?”

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.The Ultimate Goal

The Ultimate Goal is where you are going . Its the Vision

Where do you want to be in the long term

The ultimate goal puts a problem into context by clarifying the contribution it makes to the big picture journey

What’s the “Ideal Situation?”

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification. Leapers looking at goal
A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification. The Ultimate Goal Diagram

The Ideal Situation is where you want to be next

How much do we contribute to Ultimate Goal? in the short term

What’s the “Current Situation?”

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.The Current Situation diagram
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is leapers-tri.png

The Current Situation is where you actually are now

Grasp where we actually are now, today

What’s “The GAP?”

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.Whats the GAP Diagram

What’s the GAP? – The difference between the Ideal Situation and the Current Situation

Quantifying the GAP helps to understand the problem.

So the problem we are trying to solve, needs to be very clearly defined and concise in numerical terms

There are Two main types of GAP

A3 Practical Problem Solving - Step 1 Problem Clarification.Two Types Of GAP Diagram .Explains what is a created and caused gap

Created GAP – to achieve new standard

Caused GAP – to get back to standard

A3 Practical Problem Solving – Step 1 Problem Clarification

Helpful hints on this step:-

So the purpose of step 1 is simply to clarify the problem and what the gap is i.e where you are today versus where you want to be.

This step is not about target setting , this comes later after we have really understood the problem better and broken it down to a causes we can target specifically . (probably not the whole of the GAP !)

The background description needs to be simply explained in short sentences and with visuals / data where possible , to show why its important you are working on this problem.

It should simply describe why is the problem so important that we are spending time , effort and resources working on it (versus all the other problems we could solve!).

Quantifying and visualizing the gap helps the people you need to involve easily understand what the problem is , and ensure we can always go back and link to purpose of closing this gap

The Ultimate goal should always be linked to your longer-term vision / strategic goals where possible.

Because the real “GAP” to the long term objectives & goals might be much larger, we should always have this in mind when influencing how we think about a problem.

So Long term strategic goals / vision need to be made clear to people who are not aware of them by senior management.

A3 Practical Problem Solving – Step 1 Problem Clarification

We have gathered together some links below for selected courses, books and articles if you want to learn more about A3 Problem Solving.