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In stark contract, effective use of the A3 Process can facilitate the shift from a debate about who owns what (an authority-focused debate) to a dialog around what is the right thing to do (a responsibility-focused-conversation).

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We want to not only show respect to our people, the same way we want to show respect to everyone we meet in life, we also want to respect their humanity, what it is that makes us human, which is our ability to think and feel - we have to respect that humanity in the way we design the work, so that the work enables their very human characteristics to flourish.

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  • Have you identified the real problem?
  • Can you show the gap between the target and the current condition?
  • Did you go to the gemba, observe, and talk to the people who do the work to fully grasp the current situation?
  • Did you clarify the true business objectives?
  • Did you uncover the right (i.e., most meaningful) information to support the analysis?
  • Did you isolate the root cause(s) of the main components of the gap?
  • Did you capture this material in the most clear and concise manner, i.e., one that clarifies true problems, invites analytics questions, and suggests direct countermeasures?

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The term “countermeasure” refers to the way proposed actions are directly addressed to existing conditions. More important, the wording recognizes that even apparent “solutions” inevitably create new problems. They are merely “temporary responses to specific problems that will serve until a better approach is found or conditions change.”

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Porter’s practice of gaining consensus for his countermeasures taps into nemawashi. This Japanese term consists of two ideas, “ne” or root with “mawashi” or twist, and refers to the idea that before you can put a plant in entirely new soil, you must pull it up with its roots intact so it can take root in its new location and ensure organic and sustained growth. Literally translated as “preparing the ground for planting.”

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“You must call waste ‘waste,’” explained his sensei. While there were situations in which polite etiquette was useful (such as getting to know one another or dealing with cultural differences), making good decisions required everyone’s complete commitment to dealing with harsh reality.

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“Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957

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Managing, he had learned, was all about thinking - developing the right way of approaching a problem. Leading was a matter of getting other people to think. His greatest challenge remained finding ways to get other people to take responsibility and initiative.

For that, he would continue with the same approach at the heart of A3 thinking: asking questions.

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The ultimate goal is not just to solve the problem at hand - but to make the process of problem-solving transparent and teachable in order to create an organization populated with problem-solvers.

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Problem-solving, continuous improvement, kaizen: Whether inductive or deductive, they are still based on 1) understanding causality, 2) seeking predictability, and 3) ensuring ongoing, unending learning.