A3 Thinking Used to Support Strategy Deployment in Munters
During its lean transformation Munters, a global leader in energy efficient air treatment solutions, underwent a strategy deployment exercise. They needed a way to consistently, simply and quickly capture and communicate policies (vision, mission, goals) between different levels. They found the answer in an A3 Thinking.
A3 thinking is primarily a problem-solving approach that uses a single standard A3 format sheet of paper to guide, capture and communicate a problem-solving process. However, the idea of having a single A3 sheet with predefined template is transversal, and A3 is often used as a reporting medium.
Munters is one of the world’s leading suppliers of air treatment solutions. The company was founded in 1955 and has since expanded from Stockholm, Sweden to more than 30 countries around the world. Munters AgHort develops and manufactures energy-efficient climate control systems for the growth and development of agriculture and horticulture applications.
A3 Thinking, as it first emerged from Toyota in 1960s, is a mechanism, a template, to foster learning, engaging collaboration, and thoroughness (Sobek and Smalley, 2008). The A3 Thinking report is often represented in one of the following four variations:
- A3 Thinking for proposal
- A3 Thinking for problem solving
- A3 Thinking for status reporting
- A3 Thinking for competitive analysis
As a systematic approach for problem solving the goal of the A3 Thinking is not only to solve a problem and accommodate effective communication, but also to standardize the process and make it transparent (Shook, 2009).
Example of a generic A3 Thinking Template
In a nutshell, A3 thinking uses a single standard A3 format (297 x 420 mm or 11.7 x 16.5 in) sheet of paper to guide, capture and communicate a problem-solving process. Munters recognized the potential of the A3 Thinking and implemented it as part of the Hoshin Kanri catch-ball exercise for strategy deployment. The A3 Thinking has three distinguished advantages over traditional reporting: consistency and focus, rapid learning by using visuals to maximize the information fit on a single sheet, and all the information are displayed at once.
The R&D project leaders use A3s to capture the issues, final goals and plans in order to reach the target of each initiative. Below is an example of the A3 Thinking report from Munters.
What approach or medium do you use in your strategy or policy deployment exercises? Would a consistent and short documents (like A3s) help you to cut some time otherwise spent on lengthy reports and presentations?
Munters’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Munters’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Lean Analytics Association
Matic has over 5 years of experience in working with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions. Over the past years, Matic has co-developed a framework to enable better, faster and more integrated innovation across the entire value chain, enabling companies to maximize their innovation capability and deliver truly customer-centric products and services, while minimizing the risk of market failure.
Matic is a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator, and the creator of the Set-Based Integrated Innovation Business Game co-developed with a multinational Swiss company. He completed his Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management at Cranfield University in 2012.
Matic is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and several journal and conference publications. He regularly appears as a speaker and workshop holder at various lean, product development and innovation conferences.
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.
She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.