A3 Analysis: A Powerful Problem-Solving Tool for PMO Managers

Project Management Office (PMO) Managers face a multitude of challenges as they oversee and support the successful execution of projects within an organization. One of the most crucial tasks for a PMO Manager is to ensure that problems are addressed effectively and efficiently. A3 Analysis, a problem-solving tool developed by Toyota, can play a pivotal role in helping PMO Managers tackle complex issues and streamline their decision-making processes. In this article, we will explore the concept of A3 Analysis, its methodology, and how it can benefit PMO Managers in their daily operations.

What is A3 Analysis?

A3 Analysis is a structured problem-solving and continuous improvement approach that originated from Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy (TPS). The name “A3” is derived from the size of the paper used for the report (A3 paper is equivelant to Tabloid sized 11×17 paper in the US). The A3 report serves as a visual communication tool that encapsulates the entire problem-solving process on a single sheet of paper, allowing for clear and concise presentation of information. This systematic method is designed to identify the root cause of a problem, propose countermeasures, and track the effectiveness of those countermeasures over time. It it best to think of A3 is a storyboard, with seven steps to work through. When using A3, you will typically draw on an array of troubleshooting approaches, such as The 5 Whys, and Fishbone Diagrams.

A3 Analysis Methodology

The A3 Analysis process can be broken down into seven key steps. On the left of the A3 sheet, we see the first three steps, focusing on understanding the current state. The right hand side focuses on what we will do, which countermeasures we have considered and tested, and what will happen next.
“The A3 problem-solving process encourages root cause analysis, documents processes, and represents goals and action plans in a format that triggers conversation and learning.” – John Shook (Chairman of the Lean Global Network)

It should be noted that there are variations in the steps used. Here are the seven steps of A3 Analysis that we prefer:

    1. Problem identification: Begin by clearly defining the problem that needs to be addressed and why this is an important issue to tackle.
    2. Current Conditions: This step involves gathering relevant data, understanding the current situation, and determining the gap between the current state and the desired state. To ensure a comprehensive understanding of the problem, involve relevant stakeholders and consider different perspectives.
    3. Goal setting: Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that address the root cause of the problem. Clearly defined goals provide a clear target and a basis for evaluating the success of the implemented countermeasures.
    4. Analysis: Investigate and identify the underlying causes of the problem. Utilize tools such as the “5 Whys” technique, fishbone diagrams, or cause-and-effect analysis to facilitate this process. Digging deep into the root causes will help create more effective and sustainable solutions.
    5. Countermeasure development: Develop solutions to eliminate the root cause(s) and achieve the set goals. Brainstorming sessions, benchmarking, and best practice analysis can help generate ideas for potential countermeasures. Evaluate the feasibility, impact, and resource requirements of each proposed solution to select the most effective countermeasures.
    6. Implementation plan: Create an action plan outlining the steps, resources, and timelines required to implement the chosen countermeasures. Assign responsibilities to team members and establish KPIs for monitoring progress.
    7. Monitoring and Standardization: Monitor KPIs to assess the impact on the problem. Reflect on the results, learn from the experience, and make any necessary adjustments to the countermeasures or processes. Seek opportunities to standardize and embed the changes, for example, updating processes and training materials.

Benefits of A3 Analysis for PMO Managers

A3 Analysis is a handy tool for PMO Managers to have in their toolbox. It has many benefits including:

Enhanced problem-solving capabilities

A3 Analysis provides a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving, promoting critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. This helps anyone involved in troubleshooting issues to identify the root causes of problems and develop more effective solutions. While this article is for PMO Managers, it is a useful tool for Scrum Masters, coaches and PMO Analysts too.

A3 Analysis offers Improved Communication and Collaboration
The A3 report serves as a visual aid that concisely presents the problem, analysis, and proposed solutions. The format forces the team to use clarity and explain things succinctly. There is no space for waffle and filler. This clarity enables team members to easily understand the issue and collaborate more effectively in developing and implementing countermeasures. The A3 report also facilitates communication with stakeholders, allowing them to stay informed and engaged throughout the problem-solving process.
Fostering a Culture of Continuous Improvement

By following the A3 Analysis process, PMO Managers can instill a culture of continuous improvement within their teams. This encourages a proactive approach to problem-solving and drives the pursuit of excellence in project management. A3 Analysis supports the identification of opportunities for improvement and promotes the sharing of best practices across the organization.

Efficient Decision-Making

A3 Analysis facilitates data-driven decision-making by ensuring that PMO Managers have access to relevant, organized, and accurate information. This empowers them to make more informed decisions, optimize their use of resources, and respond quickly to changes in project scope or priorities.

Monitoring and Tracking Progress

The A3 report provides a snapshot of the problem-solving process and the progress made in implementing countermeasures. This enables PMO Managers to track the effectiveness of their actions, identify areas for improvement, and make adjustments as needed to keep projects on track. The A3 report can also serve as a reference for future projects, helping to identify trends, patterns, and lessons learned.

Enhanced Accountability and Ownership

The A3 Analysis process encourages team members to take ownership of the problem and its resolution. This sense of ownership fosters greater commitment to the project’s success and ensures that everyone is invested in achieving the desired outcomes.

Scalability and Flexibility

A3 Analysis can be applied to problems of varying complexity, making it a versatile tool for PMO Managers. From small process improvements to large-scale organizational changes, A3 Analysis provides a consistent framework for addressing issues and driving improvements.


A3 Analysis is a powerful problem-solving tool that can greatly benefit PMO Managers who find themselves regularly called on to resolve issues with projects delivery, and elsewhere in the business. By adopting this systematic approach, PMO Managers can enhance their problem-solving capabilities, improve communication and collaboration, foster a culture of continuous improvement, and make more informed decisions. By integrating A3 Analysis into their PMO toolbox, PMO Managers can not only tackle complex issues more effectively but also drive their teams and organizations toward greater levels of success.

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