Effective leaders are those who hold the skills and behaviours to minimize the occurrence of problems and tackle them before they mount up. As a leader, it is important that you approach problem solving as an opportunity previously unseen, as they are great enablers for continuous improvement. Having efficient problem solving skills will also help your team collaborate successfully, by providing them with a seamless process towards a solution. It will provide clear guidance, and eliminate any panic and confusion that may arise if an issue was not viewed strategically.
The Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D) is a highly effective and universal method utilised to find the root cause of a problem, plan a quick fix and implement corrective and preventative actions to avoid and minimize recurrence. Below is a step by step approach of the 8D approach:
D0 – Planning and Preparing for the 8D
It is always a great start to plan and prepare before you take any action. Take a moment to think of:
- Problem Description
- Timeframe for the resolution
- The number of resources required to accomplish a resolution
Considering all of the above points will help in forming a team.
D1 – Team Establishment
Creating a multidisciplinary team is essential for obtaining different perspectives of a problem, and having varied backgrounds and experiences to provide quality input into achieving a solution. It is important that a team leader is assigned for the team. Ideally, someone who is a subject matter expert, or someone experienced in completing problem solving projects. As well as a team leader, every person involved should have a clear role and responsibility in order to have functional team.
D2 – Problem Description
Define the problem objectively, in order to obtain all the vital information of the problem. Here, the 5W2H analysis can be used to derive a clear description of the problem.
- How much?
D3 – Problem Containment Plan
Identify and implement an interim containment plan to minimise the impact of a problem, until you develop a permanent solution. Ensure that the team are constantly reviewing the efficiency of the containment action, and modifying the plan if required.
D4 – Identify the Root Cause
It is important to identify and understand the root cause of the problem in order to find a successful and permanent solution. The 5 Whys process can be one of the many root cause analysis tools that can be utilised. The 5 whys tool is used by asking ‘why’ the situation has occurred, five times, in order to get the root cause(s) of the problem.
D5 – Developing Permanent Corrective Actions
After identifying the root cause, the team will get together and brain storm permanent corrective actions. It is important that the correction(s) be realistic, practical, cost-effective and robust. Tools such as affinity diagrams can help organise ideas and determine the best course of action.
D6 – Implementing Permanent Corrective Actions
Here, the identified permanent corrective actions are implemented and interim containment actions are removed. The chosen permanent action should then be verified by ensuring small-scale testing before the large-scale rollout, and long-term results should be monitored.
D7 – Preventative Measures
Additional measures need to be taken to prevent similar problems. This may require reviewing and improving the processes and procedures to ensure the possibility of recurrence is minimised.
D8 – Team Celebration
Once the problem is solved, it is time to celebrate success with the team. Without the team and each individual involved, the root cause of the problem would have not have been found and fixed. Therefore, all team members should be recognised and rewarded for their good work.
Recognising and sharing their success across the organisation will also help facilitate the motivation and employee engagement to successfully solve future problems that may arise.
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