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Case Flash Report

Read this case and the exhibits carefully. In this enterprise architecture case, your team must take on the role of Sally Woo, the chief information officer. She has been asked by the president, Dr. Richard Fong, to put together a multifactor analysis of CST’s three major products to determine which should be given top priority. Dr. Fong must make a presentation to the board based on this analysis and the final recommendation.

Put together a brief one-page “flash report” explaining:

The products
Any important market conditions or factors
Analysis (methodology)
Use these examples of a flash report to develop your own (attached). This is a tool currently required by executives in some business units at Amazon and Starbucks to highlight processes, decisions, updates, or recommendations. The idea is a one-page visual (with some text in different areas) to hand out at a meeting instead of PowerPoint. This report will be uploaded into assignments along with any supporting material (Excel file, etc.).

Business Communication and Storytelling: Melding the A3 and Flash
Todays information-laden business environment requires new tools and methods for communication and decision-making. Manufacturing and the lean manufacturing movement developed within project management a tool called the A3, which is discussed below. In financial decision-making, there is an increasing emphasis on dashboards and the development of what was called a flash report.

The flash report, or financial dashboard report, is defined as a periodic snapshot of key financial and operational data. Its a one-page report that helps management assess the key performance indicators of the company. There is an art to creating a flash report or dashboard report! Flash reports should cover the shortest time period that is feasible, usually a weekly basis. The whole process should be based on the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and should not take any longer than 30 minutes to prepare. If it takes any longer than that, then your flash report is too detailed and will be too difficult to maintain! What I have found effective in communicating with executives and have used more commonly with recent board work is a mash-up between the A3 and the flash report that includes key financial data but also tells the story of what needs to be done and why.

Art Smalley, president of the Art of Lean Inc., stated, In other words, problem-solve clearly and communicate effectively. Dont waste other peoples time. Smalley, an expert on the A3 report, says these reports are effective because theyre so basic in todays high-tech world of email, texting, and social media. As communication has gotten easier the past couple of decades, we have become really lazy with regards to effective communication, he explains. Too many hours are spent on e-mail or in poorly organized meetings on items that dont add value or dont foster communication effectively.”

A3s take time to write, but they provide useful information in a very succinct manner, adds Smalley, who recently coauthored a book on the topic called (Productivity Press). They are not for every communication, but for things that will have some impact or shelf life.”

Executives can tell very quickly if these reports are well thought out and if they should be granted discussion time by senior managers or leaders. If they are not ready, then they are sent back to the author for more facts and details or to be better organized. For this reason, always have a deeper dive into facts and details at hand should questions be asked or more data be required.

While these types of reports are not new, they have recently become popular beyond manufacturing. Theres a growing frustration in many companies with the inability to really solve problems, explains Durward Sobek, an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Montana State University and coauthor of Understanding A3 Thinking. The A3 process cuts through the fog of data and information that overwhelms people today.

Somehow, we have substituted quantity of information in place of quality of communication in recent years, laments Sobek. The A3 process is also popular because it doesnt require expensive training sessions or software programs.

An A3 report provides a good template for organizing information, adds Matt Zayko, an associate at the Lean Transformations Group. It forces you to capture and disseminate lots of facts and data on just one page vs. a 40-page PowerPoint presentation.

A good A3 report template should serve as a .

Unfortunately, the sudden popularity of this type of reporting has led to numerous mistakes in the business community. Anything foreign and mysterious is prone to misunderstanding, explains Smalley. In reality, an A3 report is just good problem solving and application of the scientific method with effective communication techniques, such as quantitative charts, rather than words. Use some of the charts as financial charts where it makes sense (this is the mashup).”

The reports can take a while to learn how to write, so they are often not so effective for some people in the beginning, Smalley points out. Also, there are endless flavors or possibilities concerning the types of reports that can be written. Sometimes, people see one type and latch onto it as the only way to write the report. It winds up being the hammer and the nail problem.

Many people are missing the point of this type of report writing, adds Drew Locher, managing director of Change Management Associates. They see it as strictly a communication device and not as a problem-solving, process-improvement, and management tool.”

The true benefit to crafting these reports is not in the single-page document that typically results, but in the process of creating it, notes Locher. A3/Flash Report writing is about storytelling. The story can be about a problem that is being addressed, a project that is underway or even a business strategy to address some performance issue.

Contrary to popular belief, most A3/flash reports dont follow the same outline or look alike. Youd struggle to ever find two that looked alike, says Sobek. Other than the fact they fit on one sheet of paper and have common sections, they are usually quite different when you read the content.

While the reports you are doing should follow a basic template, the exact format and wording are flexible. Most organizations tweak the basic design to meet their unique requirements.

According to Sobek, the exact structure depends on the needs of the situation. A typical report contains seven main elements that follow one another in a natural and logical sequence: background, current situation and problem, goals and targets, root cause analysis, action items and proposed implementation plan, verification measures, and follow-up. These reports should always address both the current condition and target condition. In addition, all information should flow and be relatively simple.

The type of information contained in an A3/flash report depends on the purpose of the report and the audience. The information in an , for example, should contain the basic information required to explain the background, current condition, main problem definition, root cause analysis, countermeasures, action items, confirmation method, and any important follow-up topics, says Smalley.

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