A3 problem solving tools

A3 problem solving is a tool that is used for reporting problems, improvements and changes in continuous quality improvement initiatives. A3 refers to the size of paper on which the report is presented. This tool uses a cyclical learning process that mirrors PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) and can be a powerful tool for process improvements.

So why does A3 work so effectively in quality improvement?

  • It is a simple approach to systematic problem solving, which considers how the problem (and the process of solving it) impacts other areas of the organisation
  • It promotes first hand observation and documentation of how the work is done which can give accurate insights into potential problems
  • It is thorough and yet can fit on one A3 page which avoids large amounts of paperwork
  • It allows users to visualise the problems and systems involved and facilitates better communication 
  • The people closest the work can carry out A3 and solve the problem - all you need is a pencil and paper

To learn how to carry out your own A3 problem solving activity, see our Guide to an A3 problem solving report or take a look at some examples. You can also use our A3 template as a starting point.

If you would like to submit an A3 report for consideration for publication in the Bulletin, please contact the Clinical Effectiveness team at clinicaleffectiveness@rcpath.org