• Bill Greider

A3 Lessons from Kindergarten

“And it is still true, no matter how old you are -- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Question: How do you make really good team players?

Answer: Have them work on lots and lots of teams.

I wish I had a quarter for every time I heard someone refer to a co-worker as "not a team player". As in, "have you considered asking Ethel to be on your A3 team?" Only to hear, "are you crazy? Ethel isn't a team player.

In true LEAN learn-by-doing fashion, I believe that great team players are made, not born. Doing A3 is all about ripping down silos. People that hardly ever see or talk to each other are suddenly working together seamlessly to solve customer problems and improve processes. On an A3 team, titles are checked at the door. The new guy is afforded exactly the same respect as the seasoned veteran.

One of the pillars of the Toyota Production System is Respect for People. Often, we think about RFP as how management views and "treats" employees. Another aspect is the respect that comes from realizing just how smart and talented your co-workers are. In doing A3, you never know where in your company genius is going to come from!!

It is very difficult to do A3 well without RFP. Here are a few ways co-workers can demonstrate respect for people doing A3:

1. Show up on time-if you agree to be on a team that is meeting at 1:30, make sure you show up at 1:25. One of the skills A3 teams need to learn is to show up on time. A3 meetings hardly ever exceed 25 minutes. It is disrespectful to show up 5 minutes late because you forgot or you were busy hunting aardvarks or something.

2. Listen aggressively-listening is a very hard skill. Chaos ensues if a 3 to 5 person A3 team is comprised of people who don't listen well. Just like kindergarten, only one person should be talking at any one time. The people who aren't talking need to truly listen, not thinking about what they will say next.

3. Do your homework-this is about being accountable to your A3 team. If you agree to a task by a certain time, make sure you do it. Everyone is busy, so busy is never an excuse.

4. Don't be selfish-one of the tasks of the A3 team is to gain consensus. That means not everyone is going to get 100% "their way". Even though you may not always agree 100%, once the team makes their decision, "my way" has to become "our way". Don't gripe or complain in the lunch room.

Also, from Kindergarten, share everything, play fair and don't hit people.

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