Many organisations on the Lean journey get to a point where they’ve really bought into the idea of continuous improvement, and to show sponsorship, set up (and if you’re lucky, actually fund) a Tiger Team of Lean-minded people to drive improvements in the organisation; being held accountable for finding and resolving problems, and achieving business benefit.

While developing and re-inforcing a pool of capability is valuable, it runs the risk of failing to establish the correct ownership in the organisation

Remember what you’re trying to do with A3 is

When I say “Problem,” you could equally read that as “Opportunity for Improvement” or “Deviation from Target State” or “Next Step Towards True North


  1. Solve the Problem
    Who is better to understand the problem and the impact (positive or negative) of countermeasures than those whose work is being improved? How are you going to ensure that the countermeasures stick if you don’t involve those you expect to implement them?
  2. Develop the Problemsolver
    How will you develop effective problemsolvers who are capable of showing problemsolving in action when problems are taken away as soon as they’re understood?
  3. Develop a Culture of Improvement As Normality
    This is the true secret of Lean: make no distinction between day-to-day management and change management. A standing Tiger Team will necessarily be constrained by the number of improvements they can handle at once, so change will happen intermittently, and be viewed as something that only ‘Experts’ can do.Expanding that team to ‘Everyone with a problem’ will massively increase the capacity and throughput of improvements, and make it absolutely clear that everyone can and should be a problemsolver.

It’s important therefore that Ownership of the latter half of the PDCA cycle is held by someone who has one or (ideally) both of these characteristics

  1. It’s their work being improved
  2. They identified the problem

Making a Tiger Team Work

I don’t think tiger teams are an altogether Bad Thing though. They’re often a useful way to start and to build a nucleus around which wider Lean improvement culture can coalesce. The key thing is that every member continues to improve their own work, and therefore making this a cross-functional team will bring in problems with a wider range, and give increased opportunities for the team to learn to do improvement in many contexts.

As above, each problem’s A3 should be owned by whoever identified it in the first place right the way through the lifecycle, ideally by someone whose work is being impacted. This person is then coached by someone in the wider team, and the team also acts as a support network, providing the first level of nemawashi validation by consultation.

Originally posted on my Martin Burns: PM PoV at

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Problem Ownership in A3 by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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