How a human being can obtain so much knowledge is a miracle in itself. Our brains are quite compact in comparison to the amount of knowledge they can obtain. With literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of activities we need to take in, I've always found it fascinating that every time a memory is made our brain forms a new connection, building a set of historical events, or hard drive if you will, encompassed within our skulls. Interesting enough but Neuroscientists theorise that these new "connections" only happened in our long term memory, however short term memory is built mainly on patterns of neuron activity which take place in the prefrontal cortex (Interested in a reference?). Moving and shifting memories, creating new connections and 5Sing our minds system are a few of the ways that we can gather so much information and retain what is important.
Similar to our minds a kaizen event gathers multiple pieces of information from mapping, to issues and times, while at the same time brings people of different backgrounds, personalities and behaviors together in hopes that they will accomplish a common goal. As you may have guessed sharing every bit of a blitz might be hard to do, fortunately we have the A3 report. We have wrote about A3's before but today's focus will be focused on how the A3 format influences our thinking.
Individual unique "memories"
Although it may not seem like it the way we solve problems is directly related to the examples we saw in our developmental years. The A3 report that we hear of so often works in the same fashion. Because the name A3 is only in reference to the 11 by 17 size of paper we have complete freedom to attach any format we would like to that A3. For instance Toyota and many other lean practitioners format their A3's using PDCA while a six sigma specialist might format their A3 with the DMAIC methodology. Whichever methodology you choose to populate your A3 report is not really as important as how the use of that methodology will stick with the user. Because the A3 report helps to jog our "short term" memory initially it must be used regularly in order to create new "connectors" in our mind. This is done through repetition or continued use of the tool. Given that important fact we are at an advantage when we create A3 "memories" that we do not have when we create brain memories. The advantage is, we can control the memory being created. If we want employees to think in a plan, do check act pattern we give them a PDCA A3 and multiple experiences to learn, grow and create connectors. If we want employees to think in a define, measure, analyze, improve and control manner, we give employees DMAIC A3's and lot's of opportunities to use them. This powerful influence can also be targeted to develop very specific skills through continued "kata" or repeated patterns for the purpose of learning.
Communication in our mind works in a few different ways. One way the mind communicates is in an inward manner receiving information that comes in and storing it in our "database." The other way the mind works is in an outward fashion, using signals to trigger or start the process of actions we wish to do. After some time we learn to control what triggers are sent and filter out some information we receive.
An A3 report influences our thinking in a similar fashion, teaching us over time how to structure the report and what to share. After multiple experiences we create new connections in our mind which allow us to develop a new connector that is instantly triggered when we come across an opportunity or an issue to use that connector. Obviously the more you see, hear and do, the stronger that trigger becomes. This tells us that to develop a "problem solving people" we must strengthen their connectors. The A3 format helps us to develop a structured method by which we take in information and how we communicate that same information, which then strengthens our connectors associated with the information on the A3 report.
When we learn something new we change the physical structure of our brain, organizing and reorganizing different experiences. It sometimes takes longer for others to learn not because they don't want to, but because that part of the brain might not be ready to learn quite yet. If we want to speed learning up in any aspect of our lives we must find ways to shift information in our brain quicker. Some do this through increased reading, activity, visual means or auditory experiences. Whatever the style of learning, the more you do the quicker the mind can shift. Knowing this helps us to connect that if we want people to think in a problem solving method we must allow them to prepare, be involved and perform activities. Then we can confirm to what level they have retained learning. Users of the A3 report must do all of these activities. First preparing the report then being involved in the activities that develop the report and at some time performing the information the A3 contains, which eventually leads to A3 thinking for all types of learning styles (visual, auditory, reading/writing, Kinesthetic).
It's no real secret that the A3 problem solving method is a powerful tool, but making the connection with how that tool creates problem solving minds is often a "grey" topic. The tool itself will not transform one's mind, but just as we see in schools different vehicles of learning help us to prepare for later use of that knowledge when the appropriate time comes along. The more often these times present themselves the stronger our connector or connection becomes with the knowledge associated. So, when is the last time you, or somebody you know engaged their A3 connectors? If you would like you can download an A3 template by clicking on the button below and start today!