The 8D methodology is a type of problem solving that is similar to the DMAIC approach utilized by Six Sigma. Of note, 8D is a shortened form of the original name, ‘8 Disciplines’.
The 8D’s are:
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This 8D definition may raise the eyebrows of those familiar with the DMAIC problem solving methodology. Many of these problem solving steps do, in fact, overlap with the DMAIC process. ‘Describe’ the problem (in 8D) aligns with ‘Define’ in the DMAIC methodology. ‘Define’ the root causes is similar to the ‘Analyze’ step, etc. Problem identification and congratulating the team in the 8D steps are not directly stated in the DMAIC methodology, but rather are implied.
The single biggest difference in the two methods seems to be the specific mention of ‘Interim Containment’ (building a temporary stopgap into the process) in the 8D methodology. While it is likely done in conjunction with other problem solving methods, formally mentioning it helps prevent skipping the step.
So, which is better (DMAIC vs. 8D system)? Both are strong methods for solving continuous improvement problems. Both provide a consistent, structured approach, and both provide a common language so project status can be easily communicated throughout an organization.
My recommendation is to try both, and then choose the one that works best for you and your personal style. I would encourage you to establish (or follow, if it already exists) a corporate standard so the entire organization is using the same approach. That helps prevent confusion. And don’t be shy about altering the process steps to suit your needs.
The key point is to find a method that works for you, and then to use it.
One of the most valuable skills you can develop is the ability to effectively solve problems. Because most people take a haphazard approach to coming up with solution, the simple fact that you know about a step-by-step problem-solving methodology such as the eight disciplines gives you a significant boost in the eyes of your leadership team.
The challenge most people have, though, with developing the skill is that it is paved with mistakes. You don’t get good at solving problems without practice. And when you first start practicing, there will be a learning curve. A good way to mitigate this is to find a mentor. They can help you avoid critical mistakes. A strong mentor won’t insulate you from obstacles. Part of the learning process is figuring out how to deal with pitfalls. But what they will do is make sure that the mistakes are in line with your ability to correct them.
Communication is also important. When you are stretching yourself as you learn the 8D process, keep your boss in the loop. That way when you make mistakes, it will not be a big surprise for her. Good bosses recognize that teaching team members is an investment. A few mistakes now in a controlled environment is a small price to pay for turning you into a skilled problem solver for the future.
One of the best investments a leader can make in his or her team is developing problem-solving skills. Simply teaching the eight disciplines will make a marked improvement in your team’s ability to deal with issues quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
Bear in mind that there will be bumps along the way. Your team will make mistakes, and how you deal with them will go a long way towards determining how committed they will be to taking on the challenge of learning to be effective problem solvers. If they feel like they will be at risk when they take a chance, they will be tentative and reluctant to try. On the other hand, if they see that you will be reasonable and forgiving if they went through the problem-solving process, they will be more likely to internalize the methods.
The key is communication. You have to stay in touch with your subordinates who are working outside of their comfort zone. Asking a lot of questions, and pay attention when your “Spider Sense” starts to tingle. For example, if a team member can’t clearly articulate what the problem is, pay attention to your gut. Don’t let them move on and start spending resources until they can convince you that they thoroughly understand the issue. Use a combination of scheduled meetings and ad hoc coordination as part of your communication plan. This keeps rookies from getting too far into the 8D process without you checking on them.
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