What Are 3C Strips?


Problem Solving has four defence layers for protecting the margin.

3Cs  First Line of Defence – rapid problem solving at all levels of the business. An agility to escalate  the problem to the appropriate level but, more importantly, a method for engaging all employees in problem solving.

A3 Practical Problem Solving (PPS)    Second Line of Defence – a mentoring and coaching approach to solving problems.  A thinking way for leaders.

Storyboard    Third Line of Defence – a method for dealing with cross functional, complex problems

Six Sigma    Fourth Line of Defence – a methodology for complex, chronic problems


Everyone is involved in first defence rapid problem solving.


The purpose of 3C Strips is to provide a mechanism for the identification, and resolution of problems at all levels of the organisation.  It seeks a velocity toward problem solving at the appropriate level with cross functional support where needed.

The secondary purpose is to provide the organisation with a rapid ability to escalate problems to the appropriate level for resolution.


  • Transparency and visual management of problems
  • Prioritise effective utilisation of resource
  • Indicator for leadership of problem solving capabilities in the operating system
  • People development tool
  • Drives accountability
  • 80% of problems resolved with 3Cs

Lean Leadership with 3C Strips

The role of leaders is to ensure the following:

  • Team members are developing their problem skills with the 3C methodology
  • Driving the resolution of problems by the team is constantly being challenged to stretch capability
  • Strips are data driven and speak with data
  • Containment / Countermeasure process is followed diligently
  • Integration of solutions built into standards
  • Recognise good work in the team
  • Escalate when necessary and engage other functions
  • Challenge timelines being committed to by the team

Lean Leadership with 3C Strips

The role of leaders is to ensure the following:

  • Team members are developing their problem skills with the 3C methodology
  • Driving the resolution of problems by the team is constantly being challenged to stretch capability
  • Strips are data driven and speak with data
  • Containment / Countermeasure process is followed diligently
  • Integration of solutions built into standards
  • Recognise good work in the team
  • Escalate when necessary and engage other functions
  • Challenge timelines being committed to by the team

3C Strips – Process

Raising a 3C

A 3C can be raised when the following occurs:

  • A Key Performance Indicator moves into the red or is showing a downward trend that needs to be reversed

When an event occurs that affects more than one KPI, the leader must decide what 3C to raise going forward.  For example, a quality concern that scraps product will inevitably affect delivery KPIs, therefore, a 3C on the quality issue is the only 3C required.

  • The leader decides intervention is required

On some occasions, the leader may decide a 3C strip is required even if the KPIs are tracking in the green.  The following cases may lead to a 3C being raised:

  • An action on the Action List has not been followed through causing a delay on implementation
  • A back-spike on a 90 Day Plan

Types of 3C Strip

The following 3C strips are in use.

A White 3C Strip is used for a new concern that is not HSEC related

A Yellow 3C Strip is a repeat concern that is not HSEC related.

A Red 3C Strip is a specific concern relating to HSEC (new or repeated)

The colour coding of the 3Cs provides the team with visual management of the problems in the team area.  If, for example, a team suffered from several red 3Cs, leaders would know that there may be an HSEC intervention required.  The colour coding of red, yellow and white helps the team to prioritise their actions and focus.

If several yellow 3Cs were in the Information Centre, leaders would know that the team had struggled to resolve the concerns and the countermeasures had been ineffective.  This may lead to further training in problem solving, use of PPS or storyboards or other suitable actions.  It is through this type of visual management that leaders can see the need and offer coaching support.

White 3C – a new concern

If the team has not encountered a particular type of problem before and it does not relate to HSEC, a white 3C Strip is raised.

Yellow 3C – a recurring concern

A Yellow 3C is raised when a recurring issue hits the team.  This will mean the countermeasure has failed on the original 3C.  The following steps must be taken:

  • Review the original 3C and the countermeasure implemented
    • Physically check the countermeasure (Go Look See)
    • Understand why the countermeasure has failed. Was it poorly implemented or was it not robust enough? reinstate the containment.
  • If the countermeasure was not robust enough and the root cause remains unsolved, an A3 PPS sheet must be launched.

Red 3C – a concern relating to HSEC

A red 3C Strip is raised with any problem relating to Health, Safety and Security, Environment or Community.

At all times the supervisor and teams must follow the company safety procedures.  The 3C process does not replace existing standards.

To ensure visibility for the team, the 3C should be kept active and follow the same steps to resolution as the White and Yellow strips.

Completing a 3C Strip

  1. Concern

As with all problem solving activities, the root cause is identified more effectively when the problem is clarified as much as possible.  When raising a concern follow these guidelines:

  1. What: Describe the problem as accurately as possible. Describe the deviation from standard and the standard target.
  2. When: When exactly did the problem occur?
  3. Who: Did anybody witness the event that can provide more accurate information?
  4. How: How did the problem occur?  Can we see the cause of the issue?
  5. Where: Where in the process did the problem occur?

During the course of completing the 3C and finding an effective countermeasure, the detailed description provided will help the team to reach the solution.

If the direct cause cannot be found immediately, raise an A3 PPS.

The person who raises the concern may not necessarily become the owner of the problem. It is the supervisor or owner of the board to decide upon who must be accountable for the closure of the 3C.

2. Containment

Containing a problem requires action to stabilise the process.  It may be a simple repair to re-start the process, or an additional inspection to catch the problem before it reaches the customer. The purpose of the containment is not to resolve the issue immediately but to make sure the problem is not affecting the next process or the customer. 

A containment, is not expected to resolve the root cause, but simply to contain the effects of the problem whilst a solution is then found.  It buys the team time to then figure out what needs to be done to resolve the issue permanently. The timeline to decide upon a countermeasure is 48 Hours.

The concern may require more than one containment action. List the containments in the containment box.

The person responsible for the containment actions may not be the same as the person who raised the concern as this will be determined by areas of responsibility and technical expertise. For example, an operator may raise the concern but may not have the ability to implement the containment across 4 shifts.

Follow these steps to complete the containment:

  • How  – will the problem be contained?
  • Who – will contain the problem?
  • What  – will the problem be contained with?
  • Where  – will the problem be contained?
  • When  – will the containment be in place?  Sense of urgency required to either protect people from unsafe acts or for the process to run to standard

3. Countermeasure

The countermeasure is the permanent fix to the problem.  It requires physical changes, wherever possible usually in the form of error proofing, to resolve the issue and prevent reoccurrence.

Countermeasures require planning and may need more than one person to support in order to ensure their effectiveness.

A 3C should be resolved within 10 days of being raised.  This requires a  working countermeasure within the stipulated ten days.

If the countermeasure cannot be implemented in the ten day target, it must be tracked using the reverse side of the strip (see section below).

4. Confirmation Cycle

The confirmation cycle ensures that the countermeasure, once implemented, is working effectively.

The team can choose what the confirmation cycle should be.  Ten cycles are allocated but the team may choose more or less depending on the nature of the 3C.

In the example below, the team has chosen to check the effectivity of the countermeasure over ten shifts.  The ten cycles are monitored in the Information Centre.

5. PDCA Cycle

To help with visual management and to ensure Deming’s Plan Do Check Act cycle is followed, the team must visually demonstrate the status of the 3C using the PDCA box.

The P – Plan phase is only completed once the countermeasure has been identified.  Prior to this stage, it remains blank.

The D – Do phase is filled in when the countermeasure has been physically implemented.

The C – Check phase is filled in when the countermeasure is in place and the check cycle is completed.

The A – Act phase is completed when the standard is updated and the teams have been trained in the changes.  Any lessons learned are shared as appropriate.

On completion of the PDCA cycle, the leader should perform a Go Look See for confirmation.

In the Information Centre, the 3C section should be laid out as shown to help team members understand at a glance which 3C is where, and what requires reviewing on that particular day.

Reverse of 3C Strip

Where the agreed countermeasure will take more than ten days but less than six weeks the reverse side of the 3C Strip will be used. This generates a mini plan for the implementation.

The timeline for the reverse side must be challenged and agreed to by the leader. The review frequency will be determined by the leader and will be a minimum of one week.

The reverse side follows the same principles as 90 Day planning with each task required to complete the countermeasure being detailed as tasks in a project plan.  The tasks follow the PDCA cycle in order to maintain ease of measuring status with the red line.  Any backspaces are highlighted and dealt with by leaders at the weekly review cycle.

The reverse of the 3C strip has a replica section of the Concern section in order to prevent having to flip the 3C when addressing progress.  Replicate the details on the reverse as written on the front side.

A 3C Strip with a countermeasure longer than 6 weeks duration must be incorporated into the existing 90 Day Plan or the formulation of the next plan.

The leader or leader’s manager are the sole people responsible for the authorisation of the reverse side or moving 3Cs to the 90 Day Plan. Reverse 3Cs should sit with the 90 Day Plan Section of the Information Centre.


Escalating a 3C to the level above for action or for it to be allocated to another department requires the following protocol.

Deviation from Timelines

If a 3C is taking longer than the allotted timeframe to resolve it must be escalated to the Information Centre above.  This is to ensure the appropriate level of focus is given to resolving issues as well as to ensure the appropriate level of problem solving is provided.  This will be an opportunity for leaders to coach

Ownership of a concern or timeline cannot be agreed

If the ownership for a concern or the timeline for implementation cannot be agreed amongst the team, the level above will decide who the owner for the 3C will be.

Where countermeasures cannot be agreed

If the countermeasure proves difficult to establish, the level above must take ownership of the 3C strip and allocate ownership for resolution.

Transferring Ownership between department.

For a 3C to move from one department or team to another, the following protocol must be followed:

  1. The 3C is raised and logged on the 3C tracker in the Information Centre where the 3C is raised.
  2. The 3C is escalated to the level above
  3. The level above will decide on which department should then inherit the 3C
  4. The receiving Information Centre will then assign ownership at the appropriate level in their department and update the 3C tracker on the owner’s board.
  5. 3C will be addressed and feedback provided by the owner of the 3C to the originating Information Centre, either through the reverse route of travel or directly to the originator (see diagram below).

Accountability and Responsibility

Although there could be more than one name on the 3C strip for its different stages, the overall responsibility lies with the owner of the board who must provide 100% support to the team for the resolution of the problem.


The number of open and closed 3Cs in the Information Centre is necessary to provide guidance to leaders for required intervention.

Visually track 3Cs (using the 3C Tracker) that have been moved to another Information Centre for report back purposes.

Acceptance of 3Cs

A 3C should not be accepted at an Information Centre meeting without a working containment action in place.  If a 3C is transferring or escalating the recipient should further contribute to the process where necessary.

The importance for all Information Centres is to provide containments for any 3C raised before reaching the Information Centre.  A 3C without a containment carries the risk of others being injured, poor quality being passed to the customer, or additional cost being added to the margin.

The Information Centre must remain a status reporting forum and not open itself up to problem solving.  This can be done offline with selected owners.


New concerns must be reviewed daily until they are fit to move to the In Progress section.

Other strips do not require review on a daily basis but are pulled into the For Review section in accordance with the agreed timelines.


The 3C cannot be removed from the Info Centre until the following actions have been completed:

  • The countermeasure has been successfully implemented
  • The check cycle has been completed successfully
  • All relevant standards have been updated
  • People have been trained in the new standard

3Cs should be kept in an archive in the Information Centre. This will provide a history for the team on repeat concerns, number of 3Cs raised (problems are welcome) whilst also maintaining the  knowledge base of understanding.

Coaching 3Cs

New 3C

The owner of the Information Centre should look for:

  • The concern section has been defined effectively.  Make sure the statement captures the impact.
  • Set up a Go Look See activity of the concern and its containment.
  • Check the existing standard for potential weaknesses in work sequence or content.  If no standard exists, creating one is a good starting point for containing the concern.
  • Test the containment with the team and coach team members on effectiveness if required.
  • Be rigorous on holding the 3C strip in the NEW section until you are happy the situation is under control and your customers will not be affected.
  • Decide on appropriate level of problem solving; should it be an A3 PPS or is the 3C process adequate?


Review the 3C

As the cycle of dates for completion of containment and countermeasure emerge, ensure the 3C is placed in the review cycle in order to:

  • Challenge the containment / countermeasure effectiveness.
  • Ensure the plan for execution of the countermeasure is well thought through.
  • Check the resourcing and appropriate stakeholders of the countermeasure implementation are in place.
  • Check the standard for the new countermeasure with a Go Look See.

3C In Progress

Leaders need to ensure the churn of 3Cs has a healthy velocity. 

  • Ensure the dates given for countermeasures and their completion are stretching to avoid complacency.
  • Ensure their is a balanced ownership profile for the countermeasures in the team to develop the problem solving skills.

3C Check Cycle

Leaders must ensure the following in the check cycle:

  • The frequency of the check is appropriate for the countermeasure.

New Standard Locked In

  • Go Look See the new standard.  Process confirm the standard is effective and that all team members required to use the standard have been trained effectively.
  • Share the new standard with like processes.

Need help with your Lean Strategy?

Educate your leadership and accelerate your Lean Operating System deployment and Lean Principles across your enterprise.

Speak with our expert Lean Consultants today.

Share This