Learn from Toyota in using a one-page plan

toyotaIn our Flow Marketing planning process we use a one-page plan. A bit like what Toyota does with their A3 approach. You should ask yourself how you can simplify your plans and learn from these visual and to-the-point planning approaches!

How useful is your business plan, or operational plan, or marketing plan? How much does it help you to spend hours compiling these plans? Do they really contribute to clarity of your goals, the rules of getting it done and monitoring of progress.

John Shook writes the following about Toyota’s way of managing people to maintain operational learning:

At Toyota, there exists a way to solve problems that generates knowledge and helps people doing the work learn how to learn. Company managers use a tool called the A3 (named after the international paper size on which it fits) as a key tactic in sharing a deeper method of thinking that lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success.

A3s are deceptively simple. An A3 is composed of a sequence of boxes (seven in the example) arrayed in a template. Inside the boxes the A3’s “author” attempts, in the following order, to: (1) establish the business context and importance of a specific problem or issue; (2) describe the current conditions of the problem; (3) identify the desired outcome; (4) analyze the situation to establish causality; (5) propose countermeasures; (6) prescribe an action plan for getting it done; and (7) map out the follow-up process.

However, A3 reports — and more importantly the underlying thinking — play more than a purely practical role; they also embody a more critical core strength of a lean company. A3s serve as mechanisms for managers to mentor others in root-cause analysis and scientific thinking, while also aligning the interests of individuals and departments throughout the organization by encouraging productive dialogue and helping people learn from one another. A3 management is a system based on building structured opportunities for people to learn in the manner that comes most naturally to them: through experience, by learning from mistakes and through plan-based trial and error.

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