What Is The Eight Disciplines Model And Why It Matters In Business

The eight disciplines (8D) model is a problem-solving framework that is used to identify, correct, and then eliminate problems. The eight disciplines model was first used by the U.S. Military in the Second World War. In more modern times, it was popularised in a 1987 Ford Motor Company manual on a team-oriented approach to problem-solving, based on eight sequential steps.

Understanding the eight disciplines model

The model can be used in any industry that experiences difficult, critical, or recurring problems. It is particularly useful in process-oriented businesses that are looking to scale or are suffering growing pains as a result of scaling.

Problems in the model are tackled by addressing eight key disciplines that help identify (and provide corrective actions for) the root cause of a problem.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at each in more detail.

Using the eight disciplines model in practice

Applying the model to a real-world problem involves working through the following steps sequentially. 

Discipline 1 – Assemble a team

The first step is to assemble a team with varying degrees of experience from different departments within the organization. By considering a diverse range of opinions, there is more chance the problem will be solved. A team leader should also be appointed to ensure a collaborative process.

Discipline 2 – Describe the problem

Using data or whatever information necessary, describe and define the problem by way of a problem statement. To arrive at this point, ask questions according to the 5W and 2H method:

  • What is happening? In other words, what is the problem?
  • Who is being affected by the problem?
  • Where is it occurring?
  • When – or how frequently – is the problem occurring?
  • Why is the problem occurring?
  • How does it take place?
  • How much is the problem costing the business? Quantify in monetary terms where appropriate.

Discipline 3 – Formulate a containment plan

Containment involves isolating the problem from regular operations until permanent preventative action can occur. This step is especially important when customer or employee safety is at risk.

Many businesses stop here and confuse containment with a solution. However, addressing the symptoms of a problem are likely to lead to problem recurrence.

Discipline 4 – Identify the root cause

With the problem in containment, more resources can be devoted to root cause identification. There is a raft of methods available to achieve this, including the 5 Whys, Fishbone diagrams, and Pareto charts.

The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.
The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.

Regardless of the method chosen, root causes should wherever possible be backed up by hard quantitative data.

Discipline 5 – Analyse and verify corrective actions

With the data from the previous step, perform small-scale tests to verify whether the solution works in a real-world scenario. If the tests fail, go back to step four.

Discipline 6 – Implement corrective action

Once solutions from small-scale tests have been proven, they can then be implemented on a larger scale. When doing so, corrective actions must be monitored closely to determine their long-term viability.

Discipline 7 – Prevent recurrence

If a solution proves to be a long-term fix, then all systems and associated policies and procedures must be updated to reflect the change. 

It’s also helpful to brainstorm how this solution might be applied to other problems – whether they be pre-existing problems or potential future problems.

Discipline 8 – Evaluate the process

Lastly, it’s important to thank each member of the team for their contribution. If a business is so inclined, it may choose to reward staff with a financial bonus or by mention in company announcements. This builds culture which results in engaged employees working collaboratively to identify and address critical problems.

Key takeaways

  • The eight disciplines model is a team-oriented problem-solving methodology for addressing recurring, critical, or difficult problems.
  • The eight disciplines model was originally used by the U.S. Military during the Second World War. It was later adopted for use in business by Ford and today, can be used in virtually any industry.
  • The eight disciplines model must be performed in sequential order so that problems can be temporarily isolated while a permanent solution is devised.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"