March 26, 2011

Looking for a way to focus and coordinate improvement initiatives? A3, which is named after the size of paper it is meant to be printed on. The aim is to have a summary of your improvement project from background through resolution all communicated on one sheet of paper! A3 becomes a merger of a charter document and a DMAIC improvement process.


  • Note any contextual or background information necessary to fully understand the issue.
  • Indicate how this problem affects the company’s goals or is related to its values.


  • Insert a diagram that illustrates how the current process works.
  • Label the diagram so that anyone knowledgeable about the process can understand.
  • Note the major problems (we like to put them in storm bursts to set them apart)
  • Include quantified measures of the extent of the problem – graphical representations are best!


  • List the main problem(s)
  • Ask appropriate “why?” questions until you reach the root cause.  A rule-of-thumb: you haven’t reached the root cause until you’ve asked “why?” at least 5 times!
  • List the answers to each why question


9  first immediate cause

9  cause for the first immediate cause

9  deeper cause to the preceding cause

9  etc.



  • Insert a diagram that illustrates how the proposed process will work, with labels.
  • Note or list the countermeasure(s) that will address the root cause(s) identified.
  • Predict the expected improvement in the measure of interest (specifically and quantitatively)


  • List the actions which must be done in order to realize the Target Condition, along with the individual responsible for the action and a due date.
  • Add other items, such as cost, that are relevant to the implementation.




Action 1

D. Smith

Oct. 1

Action 2

N. Jones

Nov. 5

Action 3

M. Jordan

Nov. 28




COST:  no expenditures required






  • Note the plan to measure the effectiveness of the proposed change.


  • Indicate when it will be measured, and by whom.




  • Leave blank initially


  • After follow-up, record the results of implementation


  • Record the date of actual follow-up


NEXT TIME How Quality Tools & High Performing Homes Programs fit into the NHQA Criteria PLUS schedule of next blog topics

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.