Organizational Effectiveness

Campus Address
121-50 USB
Mailing Address

121 University Services Building, Suite 50
Iowa City, IA 52242-1911
United States

A3 Problem-Solving

The A3 document is a tool for addressing root causes of problems in the workplace in a systematic way. It uses the standard eight-step problem solving methodology to assist groups identify problems and create solutions.

Case for Change

The Case for Change is a statement about why you are doing this, most important statement to make sure there is clear agreement and urgency, otherwise do not start. What are the compelling reasons you are doing this and for whom? Who is your customer(s)? 

Desired outcomes/objectives: this often is the change you want to see

Metrics: Consider what metrics you want that will reflect the change you are describing

Boundaries: Are there parts of the process that are off limits or laws that would prohibit change?

Scope: start and finish of the project you are looking at, really encourage people to stretch their definition of start and stop, more from a systems perspective not a unit

Benchmarking or data you need prior to event

Secondary issues: If applicable


  • Sponsors
  • Leaders
  • Participants
  • Expert on call:  will need to be available via phone
  • Facilitators               


A Kaizen event is a useful tool for making major changes in more extensive organizational processes. It brings together the leaders, customers, frontline workers, and other stakeholders in a structured, participatory, and facilitated effort that closely examines and evaluates each of those processes. This effort is based on an urgent need recognized by leadership and documented by completing a Case for Change. This event can take up to three full days. The Steps to Lean Success provides details about planning and executing a kaizen event.

Five S

The  Lean 5 S organizational improvement process helps to reduce the time the client uses trying to remember or look for information and allows them to allocate more time to ‘mission critical’ activities. Its purpose is to assist clients to become more organized and productive by streamlining and organizing their physical work space. Doing so enhances their ability to collect, efficiently store, and quickly retrieve relevant hard copy and electronic information.

The 8 Wastes

Use the acronym DOWNTIME to recognize the wastes that may be present in processes.

  • Defects: redoing applications, errors in work.
  • Overproduction: producing services or information that no one needs or uses.
  • Waiting: waiting for information or a process to be completed
  • Neglected human talent.
  • Transportation: unnecessary report routing
  • Inventory excess: obsolete or redundant data.
  • Motion: unnecessary motion.
  • Excess Processing: obsolete or redundant data on shared drives

The 8-Step Problem Solving Process: PDCA/PDSA: Plan, Do, Check/Study Act

This 8 Step Problem Solving Process is the core element to solving any problem.

  1. Define the problem
  2. Clarify the problem
  3. Define the goals
  4. Identify the root cause
  5. Develop an action plan
  6. Execute the action plan
  7. Evaluate the results
  8. Continuously improve

The 5 Whys

This process can be used to determine the root cause of a problem. Asking “why” five times can identify waste and Improvement opportunities.

Common Terms

  • Bottleneck: A bottleneck will not allow a system to meet the demand of the customer. The place in the value stream that negatively affects throughput.
  • Countermeasures: Temporary/immediate actions to bring performance that is tracking below expectations back into the proper trend.
  • Fishbone Diagram: Tool to determine areas of root causes.
  • Flow: The progressive achievement of tasks/information as it proceeds along the value stream.
  • Kaizen/Rapid Improvement Event: A Japanese term meaning change for the better. A team methodology lasting 3-5 days using lean tools for seeing waste and making improvement to a particular process.
  • PDCA Cycle: an iterative process typically used in quality control.
  • Process Map: A visual representation of the sequential flow of a process. Used as a tool for problem solving, this technique makes opportunities for improvement apparent.
  • Pull: The principle that no one upstream function or department should produce a good or service until the customer downstream asks for it.
  • Root Cause: The ultimate reason for an event or condition.
  • Standard Work: An agreed upon set of work procedures that establishes a routine for repetitive tasks.
  • Takt Time: The rate at which a product or process must be turned out to satisfy market demand.
  • Value: Specified from the perspective of the customer.
  • Value Added (VA)/Non-Value Added (NVA): Determination of whether each step in a defined process has value as determined by the needs of the customer.
  • Value Stream: All the activities both value added and non-value added required to deliver a specific service; everything that goes into creating and delivering the “value” to the end-customer.
  • Visual Management: Methodology of visual standardization such as file labeling, color coding and project status boards.
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC): The desires and expectations of the customer.
  • Waste: An operation or activity that takes time but does not add value to the product or service provided to the customer.