Lean-Agile A3 Community Program


In the Lean world, problem solving is an opportunity to challenge the currently held assumptions, and to think and experiment until a new, better practice is found. Among its time-proven tools to solve problems, the Lean community has the problem-solving A3 report, also called ‘A3’ for short, which is “as much about developing good problem-solvers as it is about effectively solving problems”  (Sobek and Smalley, Understanding A3 Thinking, 2008).
This program invites the Agile community to explore time management problems by applying the problem-solving A3 report method.

Who should benefit the most from learning A3 thinking?

1. Agile teams that are looking for new ways to continuously improve and to deliver higher value faster. The A3 can help tackle complex problems.

2. Agile teams involving other teams in their continuous improvement efforts and finding out it is hard. The A3 provides a common language conducive to collaborative problem solving.

3. Agile teams wanting to experiment with Lean but feeling confused by its most industrial-looking aspects. By comparison, the A3, with its smart combination of story-telling and scientific method, easily fits in a knowledge worker environment.

In this context, the Lean-Agile A3 Community program will have the following objectives.

- Advancing the Agile principle of collaboration by adding the A3 to the Agile communication toolbox

As part of writing their own A3, community members will learn to better speak the universal language of organizations (e.g., customer satisfaction, time, money) and to integrate diverse points of view. As they gain a wider perspective and build a web of respectful relations, their A3s will create a shared understanding and alignment among involved parties.

- Advancing the fine-grained knowledge about Agile practices by writing, sharing and publishing A3 reports

Community members will write down in their A3s not only the solutions they tried and the results they got, but also the detailed context of their Agile project and how they explored the problem. The A3s will be backed by measures and observations, and reviewed by Agile peers. They will be freely shared through the web and conferences as a contribution to the Agile knowledge base.

- Helping Agile practitioners stay on the leading edge of Agile by giving them the opportunity to practice an advanced Lean tool in a supportive environment

The community will provide a safe, supportive and hopefully fun environment, where Agile practitioners can try out this weird-looking tool called A3. To keep the motivation and the energy level high, each member will write his A3 about a problem he cares about on his own Agile project. Members will support and challenge each other. They will know they are applying A3 thinking properly by receiving regular feedback and advice from Lean coaches and a world-class Lean expert. At the end of the problem-solving process, they will show to the Agile community what an A3 written by Agile practitioners looks like. They will share what they learned about the A3 tool, and the Lean-Agile A3 community itself can serve as a prototype for other A3 communities in the Agile world.


This first Lean-Agile A3 community will be composed of

- Art Smalley, author of the book Understanding A3 Thinking, as Lean expert and honorary sponsor

- 3 Lean coaches, including the Program Director

- a dozen of Agile practitioners


Main Activities

- Each community member writes his own problem-solving A3 report about a problem on his Agile project.

When joining the A3 community, each Agile practitioner chooses a problem to work on, described as a time management problem. A good problem should be important and complex enough to warrant the use of an advanced tool like A3. The initial problem statement doesn’t have to be perfect, since the problem solver will have many opportunities to clarify and improve it.

The A3 author works on a real problem he faces in his own Agile project. He gathers data, observes the work, interacts with the involved actors, formulates and tests hypotheses, and solicits feedback in his workplace, applying the A3 mindset. He synthesizes his findings on his A3 report. He can get help from the community stewards and members, but this homework is meant to be done mainly individually as it is an opportunity for deep, personal learning.

- Every month, the A3 community gathers to review the reports and support each other

Community members get the opportunity to present their own A3 for peer review. The other members ask clarifying questions, challenge assumptions and offer suggestions. The Lean coaches of the community do the same, and provide explanations about A3 and Lean as needed.

The community gathering is also a time to reflect collectively on what is being learned about the A3 process, to reconnect with the others and to have some fun.

- Twice per year, the A3 community shares its deliverables and its insights with the Agile community at large

The A3 community produces three main deliverables: the A3 reports themselves, insights into what it means to do problem solving the A3 way for Agile practitioners, and a prototype of what an A3 community can be in the Agile world. The community will share these through web publications and sessions at conferences.