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8D is a structured approach to problem-solving that focuses on the root cause. It follows a competency-based method by bringing in the right people and provides a short-term fix before implementing a long-term corrective plan to support continuity.
Businesses are faced with a diverse set of problems that need to be addressed, often for productivity, profit, or competition, or all of them. Understanding the Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D) can go a long way in helping businesses handle various scenarios when it comes to solving a problem.
The skill to develop solutions
Essentially, the eight disciplines of problem-solving is a methodology that helps companies identify the root causes of an issue, come up with a short-term resolution and implement corrective actions to avert and eliminate recurring problems.
The 8Ds way of finding solutions started in the 1980s. The pioneer of this problem solving methodology was Ford Motor Company. Since its inception, the idea has proven to be an effective one, especially in product and process improvement, and continues to be used even today to solve critical problems in various organizations.
Below you'll find the 8 components of the 8D methodology, what they mean, and their successful usage in the business world.
D1. Creation of a Team
The creation of a team of experts is the first component of the 8D methodology. Whenever a business faces problems, a way forward is to find experts who understand the issue at hand.
Team-oriented problem solving is effective because a cross-functional team is more likely to bring different perspectives to the table.
People who have a deeper understanding of the problem are better placed to find appropriate solutions because part of the solution to a given problem is in its comprehension.
For example, a business with challenges in reaching out to its target customers might need to assemble its marketing, sales, or advertising experts to handle the issue instead of doubling down on the engineering team.
Since the problem is marketing-based, it's only prudent to involve people with marketing knowledge to find, verify root causes and address the underlying issues.
D2. Defining the Problem
The second component is defining the problem. This is a detailed description of the problem facing the business. You must be very specific with the description.
To be precise enough, it would be helpful to ask what, where, when, who, how, and why which will serve as a root cause verification test of the problem. Answering these questions helps businesses to be specific on what they're dealing with.
For example, you did a survey and found out that most of your customers expressed dissatisfaction with your brand and you defined the problem as low customer satisfaction of a product or high customer complaints.
However, even though this is an easy-to-understand problem description it does not give you a practical understanding of the actual issue at hand.
A better example could look like this: How might we improve customer satisfaction to reduce churn by January next year?
The good thing with defining the problem is that the business knows exactly what it is dealing with. This section of the 8d problem solving process is all about narrowing the problem down to its core and working out possible corrective actions.
D3. Find a Short-term Fix to the Problem
The problem can be a serious one that can take longer to find and implement a long-term solution. Your business must continue operating as you try to sort things out.
That's why you need a short-term solution to keep the business moving before implementing a permanent corrective action. Also, this helps to ensure that the situation does not get worse.
If you choose to wait for the long-term solution, your business may end up suffering a big deal.
Ensure that you verified the efficiency of the temporary measures so that the customer does not continue to see the existing problems. Keep in mind that problem-solving is an iterative process rather than a one-time thing.
For example, the business could address the customer dissatisfaction problem, after further investigation by improving its customer onboarding process.
D4. Analysis of the Root Cause
The fourth step of the 8d problem solving process is to identify the root causes of the problem. For a permanent solution to come forth, there is a need to identify the reasons behind the problem.
Root cause Analysis is about systematically identifying and analyzing causes that result in undesirable effects or outcomes.
The objective of root cause analysis is to determine and correct the underlying reasons for problems rather than treat the symptoms.
It identifies causal relationships between contributing factors and their effects, which can then be used to implement solutions.
The process involves exploring, analyzing, and categorizing factors from multiple perspectives to reach a logical conclusion in order to prevent the recurrence of undesirable events or conditions.
There are various activities that businesses can use to analyze the root cause of the problems they face.
One example of steps a business can take to verify the root causes of the problem is breaking the problem down into its fundamental components.
Additionally, businesses can conduct data collection to verify the root cause of the problems at hand.
When it comes to data analytics there are basic statistical tools required such as excel that would help you validate corrective actions. Problem solving tools such as excel make it easier and faster to work with data.
If your company has been able to identify the root of the problem you're facing, it would now be possible to develop permanent solutions.
D5. Identify Permanent Corrective Actions
Temporary solutions were initially put in place to prevent the problem from worsening. Now that we've identified the factors causing the problem, you can go ahead to create a permanent corrective initiative.
A permanent corrective action will help you remove the leading cause of the problem. You have to take note that this stage is a long one.
That's why it's meant to create long-term solutions. It's also essential to take into consideration the resources of a company because sometimes a company might have to change the operation systems which can be quite resource-intensive to do.
The actions you take as a business depends on the resources available. For example, a long-term solution to the problem of customer dissatisfaction can be to continuously train employees on new techniques and procedures.
This can take a long time and requires investment from a business.
D6. Implementation of Permanent Corrective Steps
It is now time to validate permanent corrective actions. After the definition of the permanent steps to take, the next thing to do is to implement the identified actions.
What makes problem-solving difficult and the 8d problem solving process more so is taking action in implementing the solution.
Implementation involves making sure that the actions work as they should. This is to ensure that the problem does not crop up again in the future. If the issue recurs, it can be costly to a business.
Therefore, a company should come up with proven ways of ensuring that the implementation process succeeds.
An example of what your business can do is give the responsibility of the implementation to experts who understand the process well. Usually, companies tend to outsource these steps to firms well versed in the domain.
A company facing an issue related to marketing might find it helpful to give the implementation phase to a marketing agency.
D7. Prevent Reappearance of the Problem
In using the 8d process to prevent the recurrence of the problem, there have to be deliberate efforts from your business.
One of the things a business can do is to update documents in a way that prevents the same problem or similar problems from occurring. In humanitarian organizations, this is known as Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning (MEAL).
It is an approach to the practice of development that places a strong emphasis on monitoring changes in outcomes and impact.
In the business context, it has more to do with keeping an eye on the system and continuous monitoring to make sure everything is going well.
Often organizations found themselves changing their management systems to prevent recurrence of past failures.
This is especially important now because today's organizations need to be agile in order to thrive in a fast-paced technological world.
To eliminate recurring problems, your business can update processes constantly to ensure that the problem is put at bay.
D8. Team Celebration
The last step of the eight disciplines of problem-solving is to appreciate the efforts of those who contributed towards the creation of a solution to the problem.
It is the combination of team and individual efforts that helped with the problem-solving process.
The significance of complimenting the efforts of those who worked towards finding the solution to the incidence is of crucial importance as it helps increase motivation, hence productivity and efficiency for your business.
The takeaway from this is that for businesses to succeed, problem-solving is key, and the eight disciplines of problem-solving is a powerful problem-solving framework that allows them to do so.
The 8D problem solving is one of the most valuable tools today's managers have to solve problems effectively and eliminate, or at least minimize future problems.
It has stood the test of time and will continue doing so in the years to come because it solves problems based on a structured approach that adds value and reduces the risk of missing any potential solutions. With it, businesses can succeed because they are more productive and effective.
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