Problems solving methods : 8D and A3

In any organization, teams encounter problems. If everything went as planned, life would be very sad. So we have to solve problems, it’s a daily activity for thousands of employees. Process improvement experts have a very wide range of methodologies and tools to support them. But these few experts cannot solve the problems of an entire organization. This is why we must be able to offer everyone a simple methodology, and to accompany it with some simple tools. In this article, I propose two approaches: the 8D and the A3.

Both approaches are divided into eight and seven stages. Both rely on the Deming Wheel (PDCA). The 8D (for “eight disciplines”) focuses on discipline, and moving from one step to another while the A3 promotes visual presentation.

Solve an issue with 8D

Here are the 8 steps to complete an 8D:

As this method is scientific and rigorous, the key principle is that you have to finalize each step before moving on to the next one. If the organization wants to deploy the tool to the maximum of employees, it must provide them with simple tools, so that they can be autonomous in their problem solving. So, beyond 8D, you think about 5W’s and and 5Why.

  1. The 8D manager, ie the person who discovers the problem, its manager or the person mandated to solve it, must first describe the problem. The most relevant tool for doing this is the 5W’s. Obviously, the problem is expressed from the customer’s point of view.
  2. Create a task force. Knowing what the problem is, it is possible to choose the right stakeholders for the resolution.
  3. The first action of the task force is to determine the need for immediate action (patch, contingency, …). This decision is based on the severity of the problem to be solved, its impact and the team’s ability to resolve it quickly. The team may decide not to take immediate curative action.
  4. Once the client is “protected”, the team can get down to business and look for the root cause of the problem. A brainstorm, with the use of the 5 Why is easy enough to do and generally gives good results.
  5. The team will then do their second brainstorming and identify all possible solutions. They will evaluate them (required efforts / expected benefits) to choose which ones to put in place.
  6. Finally, the selected actions are implemented.
  7. The last two steps are those that require the most rigor: a few days / weeks / months after the implementation of solutions, the team must meet to verify that the results have been achieved, and suggest ways to share their success to other teams or processes.
  8. It is in this last step that the support of an expert in process improvement is also a guarantee of success. He will make sure the team close the loop, and his broader knowledge of the organization will help him share it with the other teams.

Some tips for the root cause analysis

This step is the most complex of all. The 8D manager must identify the root cause(s) and then decide on which team to focus on. In some cases, resolving the root cause is not within the scope of the team’s actions or even the organization. It is therefore necessary to plan to gather all 8D made, for analysis by experts able to go further. These are the experts who will also deploy the chosen tool and support the leaders of the 8D in their debut.

Solve an issue with A3

For the A3, the seven steps are in the following format:

A3 approach is named after the paper format used to document it: the A3 (or 17 × 11 ledger in North America). The concept is to have a page on which the whole process is documented.

  1. After identifying the leader and his/her team, the first step is to document the opportunity: why do we want to deal with this problem? What happened for the A3 to be launched? What is the trigger?
  2. Then the team will look at the current situation. They will describe (with more precision and figures or facts) the situation as it is and how it should be.
  3. Same thing for the future situation: how would we like to be? Again, the 5W’s is a good tool for exploring and completing these first steps.
  4. The fourth step, which requires analysis is more complex. The team must be able to analyze the gaps between the current situation and the future situation, to find the root causes to act on the right levers. This is the same as for the 8D: coaching, training and practice are essential to make the teams autonomous in this key stage.
  5. The last three steps are very similar to 8D: definition of actions that could be put in place.
  6. Definition of the action plan.
  7. And finally, evaluate the result, adjust as needed and share the success.

What you must remember

A simple methodology and tools must be provided to the teams. With a minimum of support, they must be able to solve the majority of their daily problems. A team of experts will be able to provide support, ensure proper monitoring of the methodology, analyze trends and solve problems at a higher level.

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