What Is A3 Practical Problem Solving?

A3 Practical Problem Solving


Everyone involved in problem solving using a standard method to embed the thinking way.

Purpose of A3 Practical Problem Solving (A3 PPS)

  • The purpose of A3 PPS is to provide a second line defence for the organisation in resolving more complex issues where the Direct Cause is not obvious and stretches beyond the boundaries of 3Cs.
  • Enable teams to work on and solve the root causes of problems
  • Provide leaders with the opportunity to coach their teams in problem solving
  • Develop the thinking way in all team members


  • Practical form of mentorship and knowledge transfer for values, principles and problem solving
  • Common language for problem solving
  • Sharing experience and countermeasures through PPS is rapid and promotes best practice
  • PPS addresses cost of non quality, supporting margin improvement
  • Resolves repeat concerns
  • An inclusive process for all
  • A coaching tool for leaders with the problem owners
  • Learning organisation in PDCA – a sharing of knowledge


Role of a leader

  • Protect the margin through problem solving to root cause
  • Develop and embed a culture of employee engagement and empowerment
  • Develop the PDCA thinking way in all employees
  • Support the common language of A3 PPS problem solving
  • Ensure the A3 PPS is functioning as part of the defined operating system
  • Ensure the 5 Guiding Principles are demonstrated throughout each step of the process


graphic of a problem solving A3


A3 PPS enables problem solvers to capture all the relevant information on one page. It is purposefully designed to ensure the approach is concise. If it cannot be conveyed on one page of A3 the solution is likely to be unclear.

The A3 document itself is not the solution, it is the thinking way and behavioural approach for leaders in coaching root cause problem solving.

The A3 PPS is deployed when the direct cause is unclear or a repeat concern has occurred with a 3C.

The A3 PPS follows the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) method.

Step 1 – Initial Problem Perception – A sentence which describes the impact (specific and quantifiable) on deviation from a set target.

Step 2 – Clarify the Problem -Identify the main contributing factor to the deviation from target.  Clarifying the problem consists of articulating the initial problem perception with as much detail as possible to provide insight and clarity.

Step 3 – Locate the Point of Cause – Validation of where the problem is occurring in the sequence of the process. To find the Point of Cause, perform a Go Look See activity in the area.

Step 4 –  Containment – A temporary measure to contain the problem at source and stabilise the process, maintaining the flow of the process and protecting the margin. A containment action must provide assurance that the problem is contained and will not have a negative impact upon people (safety), or the customer (next process or the end customer), or the operation with delivery and cost.

Step 5  – Cause Analysis Potential direct causes are categorised and ranked. As an outcome the likely direct causes are identified.

Step 6 –  Cause Investigation  – The direct cause is identified and proven with data and testing of the hypothesis.  The direct cause is investigated further using the 5 Why process identifying the root cause.  Agreement that the target set in Step 2 will be achieved.

Step 7 –  Countermeasures – Countermeasures are implemented – physical changes (a permanent fix) to the process. This leads to the creation of a new standard or the modification of an existing standard.

Step 8 –  Share – Share the outcomes across the organisation where applicable.

  • Celebrate success with the teams.
  • Review problem solving capability in the team.
  • Lesson learned shared with the organisation.


Graphic showing the problem solving funnel

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This page was written by Bob Newton in February 2018.
Due for review in 2019.

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