8 steps to effectively solve your complex problems

Do you happen to have problems in your organization that you have solved, or so you thought, but always come back? Or do you have complex and intermittent problems for which you cannot find the cause and the solution?

In these cases, I suggest that you use the method below. It is a structured method, which consists of 8 steps. This method is recognized in continuous improvement and is called the 8D method, the D being for “DO” or the 8 actions method.

I have used it several times over the years, and I have always definitively solved the problems encountered!

Step 1: set up a multidisciplinary team

It is said that several heads are better than one, therefore it is the 1st step: building a multidisciplinary team to work on the problem. You can even have team members who know nothing about the problem, which can help you by challenging the team and think outside your comfort zone. Your team should also include people who know the different possible aspects of the problem. As too much is like not enough, try not to have too many people on your team, it will complicate things for nothing.

Step 2: Define the problem

You have a problem to solve therefore you have to define it, with facts. Answer these questions: who, what, when, where, why, how and how much to help you. Clarify what will be excluded from the analysis. Make sure the team understands the problem.  Go see it for yourself.

Step 3: Identify and implement immediate actions

You may not be able to wait for the final resolution to come up with solutions to contain the problem until the resolution. You might have to put in place immediate temporary actions at this stage. For example: adding inspection measures, modifying equipment, compensating a customer, etc.

Step 4: Identify the root cause

We are entering the heart of the exercise! You must identify all the possible causes of the problem. Use round tables, brainstorm. All ideas are good in the beginning. Try not not have preconceived ideas and do not discredit ideas at this stage. You can also use the 5 whys, or an Ishikawa diagram.

Once all the possible causes have been identified, they must be analyzed, checked and tested in order to validate or eliminate them. Based on facts, analysis, tests that you will do to demonstrate that it is a possible cause or not. Be rigorous and have a scientific approach. Make a Columbo of yourself! The goal is to identify the root cause (or the causes).

This step is critical to the correct and final resolution of your problem.

Step 5: identify corrective actions

For each fundamental cause that you have demonstrated, identify the corrective actions to be taken and make an action plan, with a manager and a completion date. Again, you may need to use round tables or brainstorms. Some actions may require investments to be approved, process changes, training, etc.

Step 6: Implement the solutions and measure them

It’s simple: follow your action plan and implement the solutions. Remember to communicate and manage changes properly. Measure the changes to make sure the problem is really resolved.

Step 7: prevent recurrences

To prevent the problem from returning, you may need to extend your actions to other areas of the organization, to other departments. Be proactive!

Step 8: Celebrate your problem solving with the team

We often forget to congratulate ourselves on our good work. Encourage and mobilize your team and celebrate your success. Be creative and have fun!


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