Lean Transformations Group

Coaching A3 Thinkers

Are you are a manager or leader who has to review A3s brought to you by employees or teams? Do you often see things in the A3s that aren’t clear or don’t make sense based on the facts given? 

One option is to tell employees how to “fix” their A3s based on what you think needs to be changed. That is certainly the fastest way to correct A3s that are on the wrong track or don’t hold together. The downside, however, is that employees will soon try to tell your problem solving story (that they likely don’t fully understand or feel as much ownership for).

A second option is to coach employees and asking rather than telling. Asking thought-provoking questions can make A3 creators more aware of jumps and gaps in the thinking leading to the solutions they propose. It also can prompt people to reflect on what they actually know verses what they assume led to the claims they are making in their A3 about the problem situation, cause, and solution. The downside to this approach? It takes longer and requires patience while creators learn to improve their problem solving stories for themselves.

Developing the skill to effectively listen to or "read" A3s, hear where facts are missing or there are jumps in logic, and ask the right questions to lead authors to stop and listen to what they are saying does not come naturally. Our tendency as human beings is to look at others'  problem solving thinking, see the holes in their stories, tell them what we don’t like and what they need to change, and even tell them what we think are the right solutions. But when we take over the problem solving thinking in this way, we become the problem owners as much, if not more than, the authors. Employees let us because of our position.

This workshop will introduce skills for coaching A3 creators not just on the content of their A3s, but in such a way that as leaders, we don’t take away agency and problem solving thinking from others. 

  • The first skill is listening to the flow of  A3 stories to hear what is missing or not working in the story.  
  • The second skill is to restrain ourselves when we want to jump in and help improve A3s by asking why are we assuming we know more than the problem owners about the facts in the situation and how they support their claims.  
  • The third skill is using our sense of things that seem to be missing or don’t follow logically in A3 stories to guide us in asking questions that prompt the authors to slow down, step back,  listen and question themselves about the things we are wondering about or feel are assumptions or gaps.

Participants should bring copies of two or three A3s they created or helped create to this workshop. They will use these A3s to learn exercises and coaching practice activities as the new skills are introduced in the session. Participants will also be given a skills "self-check" tool to use in the workshop and after.

This workshop is available in one and two day versions. The one day version focuses on coaching authors on the left side of their A3s. In the two-day version, additional focus is given to coaching both on A3 thinking and the A3 leadership required to complete an effective A3 "story" on the right side of the A3. We strongly recommend that the two halves of the workshop be separated by two or three weeks to allow participants to confirm their thinking on the left side of their A3s with others, conduct rapids learning experiments to fill gaps in their knowledge, and engage other stakeholders in addressing the root causes of the problem conditions they have confirmed.

This training is created and facilitated by LTG Partner, David Verble.

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