Walking the Talk and Managing to Learn: Can Pharma Leaders Apply Toyota's Concept of A3?

Another day, another new Industrial Engineering concept, Japanese vocabulary word, or other helpful (or confusing) tidbit that might be applicable to pharma. 

An email this morning introduced me to A-3, a Toyota Production System concept we hear less about that is being used in many continuous improvement programs.  Its origins are far less colorful than the Japanese terms like Poka Yoke, but it may work in pharma projects...so here is some background for anyone who isn't familiar with it.

The term reportedly "derives (YAWN!) from the paper size used for the report, which is the metric equivalent to 11" x 17" (or B-sized) paper.  Toyota actually uses several styles of A3 reports--for solving problems, for reporting project status, and for proposing policy changes--each having its own "storyline."  . .." This info (minus the yawn) comes from the following very useful site, which includes a healthcare case study (hospitals, not pharma companies, but at least they're in adjacent ball parks).

For a walk through the process, from the same source, click here.

Apparently, like any other concept, it can be, and is being misapplied.  A3 is the subject of "Managing to Learn," a new book from Lean Expert John Shook. Jim Womack of the Lean Enterprise Institute and his colleagues recently discussed ths subject in a webinar. Here is a transcript.

Some pharma managers are known to delegate continuous improvement to their minions, without taking a walk and addressing plant or lab floor issues themselves.  People like them also work in other industries. Perhaps they are a dying breed?  If you've worked with A3 in pharma, please let us know what your experiences have been.