DMAIC + A3 = Kaizen Success

DMAIC + A3 = Kaizen Success - GoLeanSixSigma.com

The DMAIC problem-solving method may seem like a stranger to the A3 but they actually make a great pair. This continuous improvement combo brings much-needed clarity to Kaizen Events, Projects or any process opportunity. But first, a bit of background.

We all may know DMAIC as it was born from the Scientific Method and the creation of Six Sigma back in the 1980’s at Motorola. DMAIC is the acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. These 5 Phases, or broad steps, create the logical and structured approach to improving processes. But when DMAIC was first postulated, it did not include the “D” or Define Phase. Only when General Electric (GE) began to use the methodology within their enterprise, did the Define Phase become integral to what we now call DMAIC.

DMAIC + A3 = Kaizen Success - GoLeanSixSigma.com

GE found that with so many opportunities to address across their business, they had to put in more effort in advance to properly define the opportunity and its benefits. In this way, they could select the projects or improvements with the most meaningful business impact.

DMAIC is typically defined this way:

DMAIC—A Method for All Seasons

DMAIC is usually associated with Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma . But if you think about it, it’s also used with Lean and Kaizen. Before you launch a Lean project or Kaizen event , you still need to outline or define the opportunity and the reasons to choose that effort, right? So, Define is the start—the same as with Lean Six Sigma or Six Sigma.

What’s next? In nearly all Kaizen events, the team seeks to understand and assess the current state of the process or area. That’s Measure ! After measuring, the team seeks to Analyze the current state to identify opportunities to Improve . After implementing the improvements, standard work, metrics or other process controls are established to sustain the gains. That is Control !

DMAIC and the A3 Format

What does that look like in an A3 format? Remember, A3 is the European designation for an 11 x 17-inch piece of paper which is double the size of the typical 8.5 x 11 inch size used in most printers and copiers. The A3 method was developed for Managers and Learners to work together on a problem or project. For more on the A3 methodology, see the book Managing to Learn , 2008 by John Shook.

While A3s were initially hand-written or drawn, in today’s digital world, the A3 can be any desired size and could look like the example pictured below (from an Excel worksheet):

dmaic a3 problem solving

A3: Define—What is the Business Opportunity?

In order to make the A3 process using DMAIC truly simple, let’s explore each of the 7 main sections to this digital A3 template. First, we start with Define . There are 3 things we need to complete in the upper-left Define section. First, what is the Kaizen Event or Project Title? By providing a specific title, we begin to crystalize our thinking and start to realize the event or project. Often the title may be the name of a process or the name of a project. Try to be specific but brief. More details will follow in the next two sections.

It may seem obvious, but the next step is to ask ourselves, “Why are we talking about it?” In this section we need to define the reasons to invest time and effort into the event or project. If we cannot easily provide a rationale to do the work, we don’t want to go further. Often a good way to tackle this section is to collaborate on the A3 with someone else. An ideal approach is to have the Kaizen Event facilitator or Project Leader complete this with their manager or with the Process or Area “owner.” The owner is the person who is responsible for the process being addressed or the area for the project.

Once we know the “why” of addressing the event or project, our next step is to Define , “Where are we today and what is the problem?” This is not the same as the previous section of why we are talking about it. In this part of the A3, we need to state the current situation or status of the process. How many people are currently involved, how many steps are in the process, how many forms or how long does it take or how much does it cost, are all good starting points. Again, it is ideal to collaborate on this section of the A3 as suggested previously. We want to keep it high-level, but we should provide enough detail to give the event or project a clear starting point.

A3: Measure—What are the Current State Metrics?

The last bit to complete on the middle-left part of the A3 is section III, Measure . Here is where we list which metrics should be addressed. The template provides the most common ones used in Kaizen Events:

Some events or projects may wish to utilize these metrics:

There are many options to consider, however, it’s best to focus on 4-7 metrics that will reflect the changes that are planned to improve the process or measure the project and its success. Regardless of the measures chosen, try to use a target of 50% improvement. Why choose 50%? It’s a good goal in absence of knowing what is possible. Think of it as halfway, which is a challenging yet reasonable target for most measures. It also helps drive a paradigm shift in our current thinking. If we must improve the measure by 50%, we likely won’t get there with the same thinking that resulted in the current process.

A3—Who are the Process Owners?

Once the Measure section is completed, we are finished with the upper- and middle-left sections of the A3. But we still have a little more planning and organizing work to complete. Let’s go through the upper-right section of the A3 now. Here is where we Define the owners, experts, outsiders and facilitators or project leaders. We also note the dates and location of our meeting or work effort. Again, this section is best completed by the Project Leader or Facilitator with the Process Owner or Area Owner where the work will be done.

Is there just one Process Owner or is there more than one? List the primary Process Owner first. He or she will be responsible for “owning” the process or project outcome and this person must be involved in the Kaizen Event or the Project.

A3—Who are the Process Experts?

Next is the Process Experts section. Process Experts are the people who do the work in the process or will be implementing the project and will sustain it when it is complete. Process Experts also must be involved in the Kaizen Event or Project. They “live and breathe” the current state of the process and have all the direct working knowledge. While it is good to have supervisors, managers or other expert leaders involved in a Kaizen Event, they should be in the Process Owner category not in the Process Expert column if possible. Experts are the “doers” and must be a part of the team. More experts are better than just one. Try to have a least a few involved.

A3—Who are the Process Outsiders?

The Process Outsider section is a great place to have people not at all familiar with the process or project being addressed but have good analytical or other skills that they can bring to the team. Process Outsiders should be unbiased or objective team players who can ask the question, “Why do we do it that way?” This is also a good way to get others who may not be familiar with the Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma or DMAIC methodology to get some exposure. Process Outsiders should come from other areas beyond the Process or Area being addressed to ensure they’re impartial.

A3—Who are the Facilitators?

The last section is the Facilitator column. Here is where to list the event facilitators. Or, this could be the Project Leaders area. Once this section is completed, the Facilitator should work with the Process or Area Owner to define where and when the team will meet for the event or for the project. Once those two boxes are completed, it is best to send out a meeting invite to the entire team and attach a copy of the A3. Ideally, this takes place 2-4 weeks in advance of the actual event date(s). Allow 1-2 weeks lead time at a minimum to help ensure team availability and achieve good attendance by all team members.

Once the prework is completed, the next steps will be completed during the actual improvement event or during the project. The next step is to Measure the process and gather any data not already known. A good way to do this is to walk the process or watch a video of the process. Another good approach is to draw a Process Map and identify all the key measures discussed earlier. A recommendation here is Measure first. Try not to jump to Analyze and Improve until the measuring is completed.

A3: Analyze—what is Y= f(x)?

In section (IV), we will Analyze the process. This may involve various problem-solving methods from the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox . Some popular ones are listed here:

A3: Improve—How to eliminate waste and reduce variation?

Once Analyze is complete and the root cause is identified and verified, it’s time to Improve . Again, we can turn to the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox and utilize some of these popular improvement methodologies:

Note that Improve has two sections. The first section establishes the countermeasures to implement the in order to prevent or mitigate the problems discovered during the Analyze section. The second of the Improve sections are the actions completed and yet-to-be-completed in order to finish the Kaizen Event or complete the Project. Since this A3 form is digital, we can embed photos, action lists or diagrams in each section as desired.

A3: Control—How to establish controls to sustain the gains or results?

The last section to complete is Control . Section VII Control is all about sustaining the gains. First, we need to make sure that all actions from sections V and VI are either complete or no longer needed. But the most important part of this section is how the improvements will be sustained. What are the new measures in place to monitor progress? Is the Process Owner ensuring that the new Standard Work is being followed? Is the 7S or Kanban discipline in place and continuing to be followed regularly?

This last section is ultimately the responsibility of the Process or Area Owner, but often the Facilitator or Project Leader meets with the Process Owner to check on progress or sustaining of the work completed.

A suggestion that seems to help with Control is to hold a short weekly stand-up meeting with all action item owners and the Process Owner. These meetings should continue until all actions are completed or it’s agreed they are no longer necessary. Afterward, checking the measures and progress are good to do at least every other week for the next few months.

To see how it all comes together, here is an example of a completed A3 Mandate for an “Accounting Process Close” Kaizen Event. The names have been removed, but the other content remains unchanged.

dmaic a3 problem solving

When completed, the A3 provides a one-page summary of the event or project. Some organizations use this document to add to a project database or “Wiki” for reference and referral.

dmaic a3 problem solving

Jerry Wright

dmaic a3 problem solving

Problem Solving in Manufacturing: How to Use A3 & DMAIC Effectively

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Named after the “A-3” sized paper used for documentation, A3 problem solving teaches employees how to rapidly address manufacturing problems, effectively communicate solutions and monitor results. This approach is typically used by Lean manufacturing practitioners to support Kaizen events. When combined with the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology, this technique enables teams to clearly define problems, uncover potential root causes and develop corrective actions to ensure real results. With each step of learning, planning and solving explicitly documented, the final A3 report provides a convenient summary of the completed project.

UNDERSTANDING THE DMAIC PROCESS Going through the entire process, each step involves the following:

Define – What is the opportunity for improvement? In this first step, the team must determine:  

Measure – What is the current performance? This section defines key metrics in performance that must be tracked and measured, such as:

Data that is not already known must be gathered. All this information combined provides a current state of the process while making apparent any existing issues or areas for improvement.

Analyze – What is the cause of this poor performance? Evaluate the process and conduct root cause analysis to identify and verify the problem. This can be accomplished through various problem-solving methods, such as 5-Why or Fishbone Diagrams.

Improve – What improvements must be implemented to eliminate waste and reduce variation? In this step, the team works to establish and schedule countermeasures to prevent or mitigate the problems identified in the analyze phase. Several Lean Six Sigma tools, including 5S, Standard Work or Kanban, may assist in this improvement process.

Control – How can the results be sustained? The goal of this step is to determine how improvements will be sustained over time. Ensure all action items are complete and establish new metrics to monitor the changes. The process owner is responsible for making sure the new Standard Work is being followed consistently. Holding weekly meetings with those involved will assist with maintaining accountability.

APPLYING THE DMAIC PROCESS IN THE REAL WORLD Together, these five steps create a logical and structured approach to improving processes, with all ideas and actions carefully captured in the A3 report. To understand what this process looks like when applied to a business, read on to see how one of our clients recently completed these steps during their Kaizen event.

When implemented correctly, A3 problem solving using the DMAIC methodology can resolve any operational problem while promising real results. Learn how The Center can support your next problem-solving project here or contact [email protected] to speak with our experts now. MEET OUR EXPERT


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at  www.the-center.org .

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dmaic a3 problem solving

dmaic a3 problem solving

A structured and systematic approach is necessary in order to solve process problems in organisations with Lean Six Sigma. Such an approach is possible with the use of the DMAIC cycle : Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

There are tools for every phase that can be used to ensure the success of a Lean Six Sigma project. One of these tools is the A3 report, which is used during the Improve phase.

The A3 report is used to identify and comprehensibly convey the most important project information related to improvement of the process. This makes it easier to take decisions that influence the rest of the process.

As its name suggests, the intention is for the report to fit on a single page. This Lean tool is most suited to the completion of relatively short Kaizen improvement tasks. As a result, A3 reports would be less suited to more complicated projects undertaken in a DMAIC environment. Nonetheless, a good outlook on processes is important in order to make the right decisions, regardless of the project.

The structure of an A3 report

An A3 report often has the same set divisions, but it can also contain a number of additional points. Which divisions are useful depends on the state. The below example demonstrates what an A3 report may look like.

dmaic a3 problem solving

Background Here, a short description of the problem and its cause is provided with emphasis on its importance to the organisation and the measures that are in place.

Current state The current state involves a description or visual representation of the problem that must be tackled.

Goals A representation of the ideal state without the problem having occurred. You could consider this the desired state.

Analysis An analysis must be performed in order to determine the cause of the problem. The findings from this analysis are entered here.

Recommendations Here, the solution(s) and measures necessary to eliminate the causes identified in the analysis are described.

Implementation plan Once the necessary measures have been made clear, a plan of approach is required. Here, the tasks, data, duration, responsibilities and status related to the process are described. This step is usually added if the A3 report is to be used as a progress tracking report.

Follow up These are the tasks that must be carried out after implementation to ensure the continued good future performance of the process.

Results This is an optional step to be used when the A3 report serves as a progress tracking report. It describes the progress made by the implementation plan and the measures taken.

The layout and presentation of A3 reports can vary greatly. We have provided a number of examples to give you an idea.

dmaic a3 problem solving

Reinier Tromp

The execution of your first improvement project

Lean Six Sigma Training Certification

Lean Six Sigma A3 Process Keeps Problem Solving Organized

December 18th, 2017

When problem-solving, staying in an organized systematic path is extremely important, otherwise, new issues could arise. That’s why the Lean Six Sigma approach called A3 is so genius. Basically, the A3 process is a structured template for solving problems in a continuous matter.

The A3 approach is also known as SPS, which stands for Systematic Problem Solving. This approach is based on the principles of PDCA (Plan, Do Check, Act).

The reason for the A3 approach is to provide structure to problem-solving  and helps determine what caused the problem.

(Systematic Problem Solving) A3 Process of Problem Solving

Background :.

Select an issue you want to resolve. State how this issue impacts your business, your customers, and processes, and of course your bottom line or financials.

Problem Statement :

Make a detailed statement of the issue. Quantify the exact issue and define detailed specifics so that the impact of the issue is communicated to others.

Goal Statement:

Make a goal statement and what you want to accomplish by taking on this A3 project. You can map out what exact goals you will accomplish. Include timeframe for accomplishing this goal.

Root Cause Analysis :

Conduct a thorough analysis as to what might be causing this particular issue.


These are the steps that you are going to take to make the necessary changes. Make sure you are addressing the root causes that you have found.

Develop the New Target State:

Illustrate how you will address the root causes of the issue. You will use a diagram on how the newly proposed process will work. When communicating your countermeasures, make sure you note the projected or expected improvements.

Implementation Plan:

This is your well-thought-out workable plan. Include a list of actions that need to get done so that the countermeasures can take place and improvement can be obtained.

Follow-up Plan:

This is to make sure that the target goal was met. Check on it at a regularly scheduled time to make sure the target has been met.

Discuss with Affected Parties:

You must communicate all changes to those it affected and see how the progress has improved. Here is where concerns should be addressed if there are any.

Get Approval:

Make sure everyone is on board with the new plan.


Execute the new implementation plan.

Evaluate the Results:

Measure the results and make sure you hit your goal if you haven’t hit it.

Your goal is to then repeat the implementation plan until the goal is met.


Problem-solving is a routine chore that businesses need to deal with to cut profit margins. Systematic Problem Solving (the A3 process) introduces concepts of project definition, development of root cause, and implementation of the solution, allowing you a way to achieve successful business transformation.

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Managing Customer Value

dmaic a3 problem solving

Using DMAIC for your A3 Report

Posted on October 27, 2009 November 11, 2017 Author business901

The definition of an A3 Report is a simple storyboard that tells the whole story of an improvement event on one 11×17 sheet of paper. The left side defines the problem, the right side proposes solutions. That is the basic structure. However, A3 is much more than that. It is the tool used by Toyota to implement the PDCA process. Understanding A3 thinking and you can apply this to problem solving, proposals and status reports. But you have to pick a template and you have to follow some outline in creating an A3 to get it off the ground.


Whether you decide to use DMAIC or PDCA for your A3 makes little difference. The tools are just that, tools. The important part is that you have flexibility to format your A3 report in any way that most effectively can tell and demonstrate your story to your team and others. Your goal is not to complete the A3 report, it is to harness all of the benefits through implementation from the problem solving that took place.

I use A3 Reporting in the marketing process. It demonstrates and recaps the thoughts, efforts and actions that took place for a particular campaign, such as advertising or public relations or even a launch. This report can really highlight the value that marketing supplies. I will be discussing DMAIC and A3 and how it applies to the foundation of the Lean Marketing House™ in the upcoming weeks.

Related Information:

Why use A3 in Marketing

Why do The Pillars of the Lean Marketing House™ crumble?

Lean Marketing House™ – Foundation

Lean Ireland – Lean Six Sigma training & consulting & Supply Chain Consulting

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Free A3 DMAIC Template

dmaic a3 problem solving

We have Toyota to thank for gifting us the 8-step A3 problem solving methodology, and it works equally well for 5-step DMAIC six sigma projects. Download our Excel A3 template for free . As an added bonus you get free is/is not and Gantt chart templates, plus two examples of completed A3s. Enjoy!

dmaic a3 problem solving


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PDCA Cycle and A3 Problem Solving

By OpEx Learning Team , Last Updated July 14, 2010

PDCA Cycle and A3 Problem Solving are clearly related. It’s not just the A3 Report . For one, the PDCA Cycle is used in the creation of A3 Reports. For another, the foundation of both come from Deming.

PS: Get the A3 Report Template Download for Free .

Compared to the DMAIC Framework of Six Sigma, Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) in Lean Thinking is much simpler, yet incredibly powerful. Let me explain each step in the PDCA Framework 1 .

Recognize an opportunity and plan a change.

Test the change. Carry out a small-scale study.

Review the test, analyze the results and identify what you’ve learned.

Take action based on what you learned in the Check step: If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. If you were successful, incorporate what you learned from the test into wider changes. Use what you learned to plan new improvements, beginning the cycle again.

PDCA is meant to be applied as a cycle: continually testing your hypothesis, learning, and then trying a new way of operating. Visually, it looks like this:


Continuing the PDCA Cycle has two important unsaid components:

The Toyota A3 Report

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) is, in itself, already simple and practical. To add a level of discipline to it, PDCA is often manifested in an A3 Report.

A3, as practiced at Toyota, is the discipline and the output of PDCA. A3 is technically a paper size – 11 x 17 – but there is a level of the A3 that quite powerful and goes beyond the size of the paper.

The A3 Report forces discipline in our thinking and also allows for a venue to share our findings on one sheet of paper.


Here is a downloadable A3 Report Example . Read through each section – the simplicity is deceptive. Creating an A3 is actually very difficult work, but quite a learning experience and very effective.

In the next post in the Lean and Six Sigma series, I’ll show how to practically integrate the PDCA framework of Lean with the DMAIC framework of Six Sigma.

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Reader Interactions

July 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

It’s really great to see that in above the PDCA cycle is well understood. Most people think of it as a circle that should rotate once in a year, and believe a more regular rotation will kill innovation and creativity. It’s not true, it’s very okay to try new things (innovation) but learn and be surgical (consequent) in the approach!

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A3 Problem Solving

Last updated by Jeff Hajek on September 14, 2022

A3 problem solving is a structured approach to resolving problems . It was popularized by Toyota but is now in widespread use.

A3 problem solving is hard to replicate because it requires discipline to use it and persistence to go through the iterative steps of coming up with a resolution. It also highlights mistakes as part of the process of correcting them. Some people get very defensive about this.

A3 problem solving is not intended to ‘call out’ the person, but rather should focus on the process.

A3 problem solving uses the A3 report to keep people on the same 11 x 17 inch page.

A3 problem solving is similar in concept to the DMAIC process of Six Sigma . Both use a structured approach that makes the user thoroughly define and understand the issue, address it with a variety of improvement efforts, and manage the corrections.

Keep in mind that the A3 process requires a variety of other problem-solving tools for it to get good results. Think of the A3 process like ‘carpentry’. You can know a lot about building cabinets, but once you decide what to build, you still need to know how to use tools to get good results.

See Also: A3 Thinking

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  1. DMAIC + A3 = Kaizen Success

    The DMAIC problem-solving method may seem like a stranger to the A3 but they actually make a great pair. This continuous improvement combo brings

  2. Problem Solving in Manufacturing: How to Use A3 & DMAIC Effectively

    Named after the “A-3” sized paper used for documentation, A3 problem solving teaches employees how to rapidly address manufacturing problems

  3. PDCA, A3, DMAIC, 8D/PSP

    Does your problem solving strategy follow a continuous improvement process or do you want solve a single problem (e.g. a customer complaint)?.

  4. A3 report

    A structured and systematic approach is necessary in order to solve process problems in organisations with Lean Six Sigma. Such an approach is possible with

  5. Lean Six Sigma A3 Process Keeps Problem Solving Organized

    When problem solving, staying in an organized systematic path is extremely important. That's why the Lean Six Sigma approach called A3 is so

  6. Using DMAIC for your A3 Report

    It is the tool used by Toyota to implement the PDCA process. Understanding A3 thinking and you can apply this to problem solving, proposals and

  7. Free A3 DMAIC Template

    We have Toyota to thank for gifting us the 8-step A3 problem solving methodology, and it works equally well for 5-step DMAIC six sigma projects.

  8. PDCA Cycle and A3 Problem Solving

    Compared to the DMAIC Framework of Six Sigma, Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) in Lean Thinking is much simpler, yet incredibly powerful. Let me explain

  9. A3 Problem Solving

    A3 problem solving is similar in concept to the DMAIC process of Six Sigma. Both use a structured approach that makes the user thoroughly

  10. A3 problem solving

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