The A3 Report

This post originally appeared on October 8, 2010 on

TPS reports, courtesy of the movie Office Space, have become nearly a cultural in-joke about useless paperwork for those of us who work in office environments. I recently saw an article that described the A3 technique, which is far from useless. The technique comes from the book Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process by John Shook.

What I really like about this technique is that it seeks to concentrate all the necessary information down into a single piece of paper, albeit a large piece of paper. While the details of issues we face on a daily basis are often extremely complex, the level of detail needed to make an informed decision rarely needs that same complexity. Space is limited, especially if the information is going to be legible, so brevity is a must. Nothing beyond what is necessary is contained within the document.

I also love that this is meant to be ad-hoc. No time is wasted trying to format and ‘pretty up’ a document that is meant to be used. For those of us who are spelling-challenged and depend upon our word processor’s spell-check functions, creating our A3 by hand is especially challenging, but it also forces us to not be so reliant upon technology.

The last thing I really enjoy about this is how visual it is. I’ve noticed that certain groups of stakeholders, especially those that are not in finance, generally respond better to graphical representations of processes than they do to a large list of textual requirements. This presents the information stakeholders need in a format that works well for most of them.

What about you? Could you use A3 in your projects?