A3 Reports: Capturing All You Need to Know on One Sheet of Paper

March 21, 2009 - Tags:

When I interviewed David Baxter, vice president at the Toyota Technical Center, he was a bit nervous about a report he was working on. It was the proposed budget for the entire center. The whole time he talked about the report, I was envisioning a large article-like document. Suddenly it dawned on me that he was talking about an 11" x 17" (A3) sheet of paper and how he was going to put the entire budget and its justification on that one sheet of paper. Toyota is very strict about having managers and associates go to great lengths to put key information on one side of an A3-sized piece of paper. Why A3? Because this is the largest paper that can fit through a fax machine. A typical A3 report is not a memo—it is a full report documenting a process. For example, a problem-solving A3 would succinctly state the problem, document the current situation, determine the root cause, suggest alternative solutions, suggest the recommended solution, and have a cost-benefit analysis. This would be on one sheet of paper, using figures and graphics as much as possible. The push in the last few years in Toyota has been for everyone to move to A4 reports (8fi" x 11")—the idea that less is more. The ingenious process for developing A3 reports is described in greater detail in Make Decisions Slowly by Consensus,Thoroughly Considering All Options; Implement Rapidly (Nemawashi).