This article is the final installment of a three part series designed to stimulate thinking for management teams about planning, and provide a few tools that should help the process. The focus today is: Finalizing the Plan.
For the last few weeks I have been writing about Market Diversification with an emphasis on developing practical strategies to grow profitably into new markets and find new customers. For further information on these articles, here’s a link to my Manufacturing Line Blog at AllBusiness.com, http://www.allbusiness.com/manufacturing-services/4967954-1.html.
Finalizing Your Plan
If you have been following the first two articles in this series, you should have a short list of priorities for the remainder or 2009, have begun thinking about your priorities for 2010, and started to finalize your company’s 2009 actions using the A3 Planning format. This article will demonstrate how to complete your A3 Plan for 2009.
The A3 Plan Format
The process called A3 Planning was developed internally by Toyota over the last 30 years, A3 simply refers to the size of a sheet of paper roughly 11” x 17”. The goal of A3 Planning is to put all relevant facts regarding a plan on one piece of paper and be able to tell the story about the plan as quickly and succinctly as possible. I’ve done this on a small letter size 8.5” x 11” paper for smaller projects or broken the sections up into two letter size documents that when combined produce an A3 size document.
Here’s the format for a typical A3 Plan.
In terms of how to complete the A3 Plan, follow these steps in order:
Page One: The Planning Page
- Focus: What is the overriding business goal your company must achieve? This is typically called True North. It means exactly what it says and sets the tone for your plan. Examples might be:
- Find profitable new customers and markets to sustain our business long-term
- Develop new and distinctive products to drive growth
- Improve profitability by finding increasing sales to higher margin customers
- Background: Performance, Gaps & Targets. What are your targets, how have you performed in the past and what are the gaps that must be addressed?
- Current Condition: Reflection on 2009 Activities So Far. The good, bad & ugly. Be brutally honest in your assessment and focus on establishing metrics for improvement.
- Goals for 2009 & Beyond: What are your main goals that must be achieved for you to execute your plan? Make them realistic but a stretch.
- Analysis: Rationale for This Year’s Priorities. Recap your rationale as succinctly as possible
Page Two: The Action Page
- Plan Details: Priorities, Activities, Responsibilities & Resources
- Target Results & Timelines: Set your metrics to use in measuring progress and the timelines you and your team must achieve to be successful
- Unresolved Issues: What else is bothering you or are you concerned about that you haven’t addressed in the plan? What other priorities also need to be addressed? This is the parking lot to capture these points.
- Signatures & Date: Everyone who developed the plan and will be involved in executing it needs to formally acknowledge their support for the plan. Which means everyone needs to be consulted and involved with developing the final version of the plan. This insures as much alignment as possible
This A3 Planning process follows the Plan, Do, Check (Study), Act (Adjust) or PDCA model popularized by Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Edward Juran. It is meant to be a continuous process, not a once per year event. So, when you evaluate your progress, at least quarterly, there will undoubtedly be modifications and adjustments to the plan. Just document the changes in a new version and you have a very simple way of connecting Planning with Execution.