Managing to LearnManaging to Learn is the book to read for an understanding of how the A3 format is designed to serve concurrently as a learning tool and problem solving tool. The author, John Shook, began learning A3 problem solving from senior Toyota managers while working at the GM-Toyota NUMMI joint venture.

The book’s unconventional format provides an understanding of how the A3 is used from two perspectives. One viewpoint is that of a new manager, charged with making an improvement. The other is that of a senior manager, for whom this is one of several challenges to be addressed, but who is also mindful that the A3 process is very deliberate and designed to improve the capabilities of all the people in the enterprise.

While having two story lines presented concurrently can be awkward for some readers, the book succeeds at its intent to help the reader understand that the A3 process is multifaceted, and that the purpose of the A3 is to be a guide to help structure thorough investigation, analysis and reflection on improvements, and not an end unto itself.

Managing to Learn is definitely a book that would best be read with others, accompanied by A3 problem solving and learning practice based on what the team has learned. While personal coaching on the A3 process would be preferred, Shook’s book is a worthy surrogate, and worth reading even if you have personal A3 coaching.