A3 Report Title: PICK UP YOUR TOYS!!

I need some parenting help. As the A3 report below will show, our young kids are slow at picking up their toys. The older one is old enough to slow down on purpose and play games with us, and the younger one is young enough or has the personality to be oblivious to most scolding.
Either way, yelling at kids is getting old. Here is the A3 titled Pick Up Your Toys! Details of A3 are below.
Situation: What is the problem?
Kids not cleaning up toys in the play room quickly enough. This causes stress to their mom who shouts at kids, and Jon gets stressed by kids’ mom shouting. This is a daily occurrence.
The target condition is no shouting about toys.
Root Causes:
Problem: Kids’ mom shouts because kids clean too slowly.
Why? Older kid does not want to clean up all toys quickly.
Why? Older kid thinks it is unfair.
Why? Younger one is not helping even though she got the toys out – she is playing while older one cleans.
Why? Younger kid is just being a kid.
Problem: Older kid says she is too tired or it is too hard to clean all of the toys by herself.
Why? There are too many small toys.
The books are packed into the bookshelf too tight. Some toys need to be put back up on a high shelf (easy to get down, not easy to put back).
Countermeasures: How to fix?
1. Give younger kid other task similar to cleaning that she can do, to keep her away from toys she likes to play with, so she does not play while older kid is cleaning.
2. Give away some toys to make cleaning easier.
3. Reduce the number of books on shelf so they are not packed in so tightly.
4. Make “if it’s left out, we throw it out” a rule
Verification: How will you check?
1. Toys being put away within target time (5 min)
2. No more shouting about toys
Adjustment: What further action is needed?
(Blank since no countermeasures have been tried.)
I created this A3 report while on the road and away from the gemba (kids’ play room). I readily admit that my grasp of the current condition is not as strong as it could be. Is the target condition “no shouting” or “toys picked up quickly”? What is a reasonable time for the kids to clean the toys to prevent shouting?
I have not yet done nemawashi with all of the players in my house to develop ownership of one common problem. I am doing early-stage nemawashi with any of you parents out there who might have good tips on how to reduce the shouting at kids because of toys not getting picked up quickly enough.


  1. robert thompson

    April 16, 2007 - 11:25 pm

    A great post and possibly a technique I may try out being a dad! I guess you could use this with the Kaizen personal improvement ideas being kicked around for example here: http://tinyurl.com/2k76re

  2. Duncan

    April 17, 2007 - 6:18 am

    Hi Jon,
    In regards to keeping the toys tidy, we have similar experiences with my daughter (4), who responds to either praise or self-interest (such as a tasty snack waiting on the dinner table).
    Unlike her older brother (6), she does not seem to have an innate sense of responsibility, she does not appear to experience feelings of guilt, and she does not respond to threats…
    We live in a small apartment in Japan where keeping the floor clear has to be balanced with the kids need for a space to play. A Montessori concept I once read about reminds me of the single-piece flow idea – basically kids should only play with one toy at a time. If they want to play with a different toy, they first have to put away the one they are playing with (in its designated drawer).
    But this is an ideal, and making it work is another matter!
    As with all training, there is a huge investment of time required supervising all this putting away of toys until it becomes 2nd nature..
    Good luck

  3. Ron

    April 17, 2007 - 8:04 am

    Easy Jon. It is called corporal punishment. Just kidding! Really, I am kidding! I have a 2 year old and 4 year old (8 month old gets a pass for now) working the toy room. We keep track of the chores the kids do and if they do well they get Blockbuster or something fun at the end of the week. Also, we have them race each other while cleaning up and this seems to help. If that fails we resort to counting (let’s see how fast you can do it). When they hear the counting they feel excited and want to do it fast. But in the end they are kids and mom and dad get tired so there is yelling once in awhile. I anxiously await the results of your kaizen.

  4. Jon Miller

    April 17, 2007 - 12:22 pm

    This is good feedback. I’ll report back in a few weeks.

  5. Matt

    April 17, 2007 - 2:21 pm

    The montessori thing that Duncan mentions really works. Montessori has one piece flow, 5S, standarization, respect for people – from Italians, no less. If you do some reading, you will find that the philosophy has a lot of similarities to TPS.

  6. Katherine Radeka

    April 23, 2007 - 6:14 pm

    I’ll give you the same feedback I give to engineers who hand me A3 reports for review. There’s an awful lot of text on this report. How can you make it more visual? Also – it looks like one of the root causes is that the older child must put away the younger child’s toys. Is this true? How do your countermeasures address it?

  7. Steven Bonacorsi

    April 19, 2021 - 10:50 am

    I would add that if you can build in some rewards and make the process like a game “fun” then this will not feel like a chore. I know when i was a kid i would strategically place toys around the room for specific battles i was having in my mind between the toy monsters and the various toy solders. So having some flexibility to not ruin the imagination of the child so they can complete the fantasy needs to be balanced.

    • Jon Miller

      April 20, 2021 - 12:56 am

      Great idea!

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