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Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead

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127 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2008

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John Shook

28 books11 followers

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5 stars
214 (39%)
4 stars
195 (36%)
3 stars
108 (20%)
2 stars
19 (3%)
1 star
3 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews
Profile Image for Julia.
27 reviews14 followers
February 1, 2017
This was one of the best management books I have read in a long time. I love the applicable A3 as a tool, but even better, knowing that the tool is really the way you think, not the form itself. I will use this immediately. Definitely a must read for everyone.
Profile Image for Angela.
259 reviews10 followers
January 27, 2009
It takes a while to get used to the format of this book: two stories run side-by-side (sort of). They don't match up exactly, but the reader is bouncing back and forth from the perspective of the mentor and the "mentee" in a rigorous problem solving process. Mixed in with that are random, bite-sized bits of reference info - a tad odd, but it works. I like the creativity of the layout, but will need to sift back through to find the key points in the future. Recommended if you're fairly familiar with Lean concepts, and want to get better at the A3/problem-solving stuff.
Profile Image for Victor Zu.
6 reviews
January 22, 2023
“Authority is created by framing the issue properly and gaining agreement.”
Profile Image for Brian.
37 reviews8 followers
April 1, 2009
"Managing to Learn" is an excellent book for managers and coaches of A3 authors/advocates. John Shook is a true sensei with 11 years of Toyota history and real world experience in helping organizations with Lean transformations. I have been learning a lot from his incredible blog posts recently as well.

My organization is about 5 months into our A3 launch so I have been researching a lot for best practices and ideas. I initially thought this book was going to be a "how to" guide for the author of the A3. You can probably understand how to write an A3 from this book but it is not as explicit as Sobek/Smalley's book. I believe managers and coaches should read both books.

Where this book truly shines is getting into the head of the A3 mentor. A lot of Lean books are written from an academic standpoint but this book feels more like a day in the life of someone actually doing the work. The pressure the manager feels organizationally to get things completed in contrast to allowing the A3 author time to learn is a true struggle I have seen in Lean transformations. The book has a part where the manager is dealing with multiple A3 authors all at different stages in their learning. I know these are true mental challenges for coaches so it is nice to relate to a character going through the same things.

Coaches can learn a lot from this book to help the A3 author’s growth and deep understanding.

Some great things I learned from the book is how to encourage more than one counter-measure, using respect through conflict, helping the author make valid decisions and transition from author to advocate, pull-based authority, using 5 whys after implementing in the check/act cycle, and how to help the A3 writer become a coach themselves.

I think this book would be interesting to Project Managers as well. The last few chapters offer some great insight on how to deal with iterative changes and dealing with cultural resistance.
Profile Image for J Scott.
60 reviews
December 12, 2011
A good friend recommended this book late last year. I bought it and have skimmed it a few times; getting a general flavor. At his recent prompting, I sat down and read it through---and I'm glad I did. There is much to learn from Mr. Shook's able description of the A3 process and he teaches using a method similar to that used in The Goal---however, this is much better. There are a few moments when the scenarios seemed a bit contrived, but the point was made. I plan to re-read and put into action in several areas of interest. This book is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Katrine Austin.
379 reviews13 followers
May 25, 2021
Decent leadership book I had to read to prepare for corporate problem solving process (i.e. PSP) training here in the near future. I like how the examples discussed were recent and relevant, and had timely reminders to self (i.e. don't jump to conclusions/solutions before framing the problem etc). Was the higher rating partially due to the fact I generally agreed with author's approach? Sure. The other business book I'm reading leaves me way more conflicted so this read was comparitively smooth and I'm good with that!
Profile Image for Heather Carreiro.
85 reviews6 followers
February 10, 2019
I have never flown through a book for a graduate class in two days before, and while actually reading every word. Shook's dual narrative approach makes this in-depth book on Lean Management, and specifically the A3 approach, accessible and interesting. I recommend this book for anyone in leadership or teaching. As an educator, I can immediately implement so many of these concepts to grow learners and leaders in my classes.
Profile Image for Johanna.
96 reviews4 followers
August 16, 2017
By far the best lean related book I've read. Complemented well the training sessions we had earlier in the spring. Also a total eye opener in terms of understanding how to lead other individuals go through the problem solving process in a structured way. Highly recommended to anybody who has even some degree of exposure to lean in their professional environment.
Profile Image for Thi.
213 reviews2 followers
January 15, 2021
This book is very approachable in describing how to solve problems with the Toyota A3 method. It describes how to learn to manage - both from the mentor's but also from the learners perspective. It does this by describing the learning/coaching stages from both POVs simultaneously which I actually did find useful.
Profile Image for Roberto Dawes.
11 reviews
August 24, 2021
Excelente livro didático de como você pode preparar o seu A3. Melhor ainda se a leitura for feita previamente ou durante a sua preparação de um A3 real. Você vai perceber situações do seu dia a dia bem próximas dos personagens.

O A3 é muito bem descrito além de uma ferramenta ou processo, faz parte do aprendizado de como se resolver problemas.
Profile Image for Horia.
1 review1 follower
September 5, 2017
Fantastic overview of the A3 way of thinking and improving the way of work. I love how John has written it as two books in one, sharing both the story of the learner and the story of the coach side by side.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,079 reviews287 followers
February 10, 2021
Really cool way to describe the A3 process! A little difficult to understand at times with going back and forth between the mentor and mentee but I got used to it. Really created the dynamic conversations/thoughts needed to go back and forth during this process. Definitely will help me at work!
Profile Image for Pat.
89 reviews19 followers
May 7, 2017
A good primer on the A3 process and one that I'll keep handy for reference. I appreciated the layout which illustrated the process both from the A3 user's role and that of the sponsor or mentor.
Profile Image for April.
97 reviews
June 7, 2017
They could have covered the content just as well with half of the pages.
2 reviews
November 18, 2017
Illustrates the magic of the A3 process like no other book I've read -- drawing solutions out of people rather than trying to be the one with all the answers.
50 reviews2 followers
October 8, 2018
An short 62 page slide deck on A3 method. It give a clear overview of the A3 method but there is only one example.
16 reviews
August 6, 2019
The back a forth style this is written in takes some adjusting but definitely a worthy read if you're writing A3s.
March 28, 2020
Eger problem cozmek istiyorsaniz yalın sistemin onerdigi A3 metodolojisini ogrenmeniz gerekmektedir. Kitapta bu konu detayli ve orneklerle anlatilmaktadir
4 reviews2 followers
September 15, 2020
Great book, loved the clear narrative that ran through with a constantly updating example.
Profile Image for Damon Lively.
46 reviews
April 15, 2014
I think this is an important book / read for those who are involved in A3 (LEAN) based problem solving – or even if you want to begin to understand the principles (although some may disagree with that premise). The book is based on porter / sanderson relationship (upper management to mid management relationship and skill development for coaching A3) – but I believe some beginners may find helpful information. Whether that is approach to problems solving and the continued probing for “truth” or side material on “what” various tools are. There are several examples of A3 and the mechanisms to problem solve within A3 logic.

The way the book reads could be frustrating to some – as it is meant to tell both perspectives and purpose on the engagement of “working” the problem. I preferred to read one side (e.g. porter) and then the other (e.g. sanderson) and even though I have some LEAN based education – I found parts to still have intriguing components and certainly engaging. There is good focus on “catchball” and as a manager – prompting your employee to dig deeper and explore thoroughly. I find this to be a must have book / material for my management collection.
Profile Image for Stephen.
657 reviews56 followers
January 1, 2016

Good overview of Toyota's lean manufacturing approach. Best quotes, "...articulating the right theme will force you to describe the real problem..." p. 17; "...an A3 isn't just a collection of facts and data. It should tell a story, a problem-solving story. It should bring facts and data to life, and point toward a way to a better future state." p. 38; "'Consensus' or agreement did not mean that everyone had equal voice in every instance, or that every stakeholder would do it the same way were he or she in charge. Consensus meant that there was an identified owner of the issue; that the owner had submitted a reasonable proposal following an accepted process that had engaged the knowledge, ideas, and interests of the stakeholders; and that these stakeholders agreed to support the owner in attaining the desired outcome" p. 77; and "We need to produce good people before we can produce good products" p. 93.
Profile Image for Christophe Addinquy.
389 reviews15 followers
December 31, 2016
Maybe I should read this book a second time ? I have to admit it, I was somehow disappointed. This book was recommanded to me by a colleague as an introduction to the A3 problem solving. The text is articulated around a story telling. Actually a 2 level storytelling, and this is one of the weakness of the book, because it makes the whole thing harder to grasp. The narrative is anyway not that easy to follow, the author doesn't take the time to settle down gently the material.
The book isn't a complete failure, only a disappointment. The appendices and the A3 samples help in some way to graps the concept.
ma note de lecture en français ici
Profile Image for Randy Watkins.
124 reviews1 follower
November 26, 2016
Author, John Shook, takes the reader/learner on an A3 journey using two fictitious characters, Porter, the new A3 user, and Sanderson, the A3 mentor. Sanderson mentors Porter through a complete A3 (PDCA) cycle of process improvement diving deep into the foundation of Toyota A3 Thinking. This is not a book about how to fill out an A3 form, it is a book about scientific, logical, root-cause analysis, countermeasure development, consensus building, storytelling, effective coaching, and management with an emphasis on respect for people, a key component of The Toyota Way. It's why I have so much respect for Toyota as a company and why I will continue to build on my capabilities as an A3 thinker.

This book was read as an assignment for UNC Kaizen Coach Track 3.
Profile Image for Dennis.
16 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2011
De meeste mensen die een beetje vertrouwd zijn met A3 rapportering, zien de A3's als een eenvoudig communicatiemiddel en/of als een hulpmiddel om problemen op te lossen. A3's zijn echter veel meer!
Het A3 proces gaat over hoe een organisatie problemen, projecten en voorstellen weet te identificeren, kaderen, er op reageren en de voortgang er van opvolgt.
Dit boek toont aan hoe een A3 gebruikt kan worden als management process voor een gestandaardiseerde wijze van innoveren, plannen en problemen oplossen. Het is dus een praktische en herhaalbare methode naar leren binnen een organisatie.
Profile Image for Peter.
684 reviews
June 8, 2016
Ever since Toyota invented the lean manufacturing process the world of the car industry has changed. One of the tools of analysis that lean is using is also the a3 process. Based on the simple a3 paper size a whole process and mindset of continuous improvement has evolved.
This is a book about learning to investigate question and understand how to create countermeasures to real problems. Narrated as a dialogue between an apprentice and his mentor it is as interesting as management books can be.
Profile Image for Warren.
64 reviews15 followers
December 24, 2012
This book is cited by Liker and Convis in "... Lean Leadership."

In chapter 3 the authors explain how Gary Convis was influenced by Mr Fumitaka Ito, who came from a finance role in Toyota Japan.

Following Ito's at NUMMI in America Convis learned to create development opportinities for engineers, by having them learn to present A3 reports as part of solving problems and learning to understand the value of 'go and see' (genchi genbutsu), a key principle of the Toyota Production System.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews

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