Apr 7 2016
Even if the A3 report is sometimes paraded around like a sacred relic, it is in my view only a minor tool. The main work is still identifying and solving the problem. If I have the choice between a sloppy root cause analysis on an A3 report and a good one on the back of an used envelope, I would go with the envelope any time. Using an A3 report will offer no advantage at all if the content is garbage!
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Michel Baudin‘s comments:
This is the 3rd post by Christoph Roser about A3. I only wrote two, What is an A3? and Beyond A3s. I agree with him that it is a minor tool, but our perspectives differ on details. Christoph sees A3 as primarily for problem-solving; I see them as a communication tool with many more applications, in particular work instructions. And Pascal Dennis likes to use them in Hoshin Planning/Strategy Deployment.
Christoph is also fond of paper and pencils, which I assume makes him miserable blogging… And he recommends generating A3 while on the shop floor, which I have trouble envisioning as it involves carrying around an unwieldy A3 clipboard. On a production shop floor, I try to avoid carrying too many conspicuous objects. My smartphone is convenient as a stills camera, video camera, and stopwatch. To take notes or exchange sketches with people on the shop floor, I use smaller formats, like 3″x5″ gridded index cards. To generate anything on an A3, it’s much more comfortable around a conference table.
The tabloid format is the US equivalent of the ISO A3 but, if you write a document on a letter size of A4 sheet, please don’t call it an A3. Size does matter, particularly for a concept named after a paper size. The A3 size is a tradeoff between the availability of paper and printers on one side, and the amount of information you can fit in one page on the other.
Another element missing from the conversation about A3s is the type of communication that they support. After being eclipsed by bound books for almost 2,000 years, scrolls have made a comeback on screens. Their main drawback in hardcopy was that they were strictly sequential, which the book addressed by letting readers flip back and forth. But the book is still a sequence of pages, and less effective for multidimensional communication than at-a-glance, single-sheet documents like maps, plans,… or A3 reports. You shouldn’t see the A3 format as just restricting the amount of information but also as making visible relationships that might be missed in sequential reading.