Problem-solving Techniques: The 8D Model

Amy Hawthorne

by Amy Hawthorne

7th March 2014


Back in 1983, Ford Motor Company was struggling to cope with the influx of complaints about the quality of American cars, so they decided to approach Dr W. Edwards Deming for his professional advice. Ford had expected Deming’s seminars to revolve around how to improve quality, but instead he focused on how Ford should improve management and thus, the 8D model was created as a problem-solving strategy.

The 8D Model

The 8D model consists of 8 stages, or “disciplines” which can be used to analyse problems encountered in the workplace. The main aim of the process is to identify the root cause of a problem and put procedures in place to rectify it and ensure the matter won’t return to haunt you.

When managers of companies are faced with a problem, they want to solve it quickly and thoroughly. However, these terms almost contradict each other and a quick-fix can often lead to a recurring issue. Ford published the “8 Disciplines” in their 1987 manual for “Team Oriented Problem Solving” (TOPS) to help teams develop a customised, permanent solution to their problems.

Discipline 0: Plan

The 8D model should technically be renamed “The 9D model” because discipline 0 was added later on, as a preliminary preparation stage. The planning discipline includes pondering who will be on your team, how long you have to fix the problem, and what resources you’re likely to need in the process.

Team Building

Discipline 1: Build the Team

Time to recruit some team members. This can be a puzzling decision; a diverse team may be advantageous because they can offer different skills and suggestions, but if their ideas oppose each other’s too much, you could be faced with lots of time spent solving their disagreements.

It may be good to glue the team together and encourage team work with some ice breakers and team building activities at this stage.

Discipline 2: Describe the Problem

Ensure the assembled team are filled in with a detailed background – who, what, when, where, why and how? Quantify where possible, to inform your team of the severity of the problem.

Identifying the root cause comes later on. For now, just focus on making sure your team understands what’s going on above the surface.

Discipline 3: Implement a Temporary Fix

Apply a temporary band aid to stop the problem spiralling while you figure out your next move. Get each member of the team to contribute their initial ideas and consider cost, relevancy and implementation time, making sure the procedure is worth the effort.

Discipline 4: Identify and Eliminate the Root Cause

This is where you attempt to dig out the origin. Conduct a cause-and-effect analysis using a fishbone diagram to help you uncover numerous possible causes and highlight any problems you may not have been aware of.

Apply root cause analysis to zone in on the deeper causes of the issues you’ve identified. One way to perform a root cause analysis is by asking the 5 Whys.

You can then make a start on figuring out some permanent solutions to the problems.

sorting hat

Discipline 5: Verify the Solution

You need to test your solution before it can be fully implemented to avoid the risk of unwanted side effects. The “Six Thinking Hats” may sound like some magical objects from a Harry Potter book, but they can be a useful technique for examining your potential solution from multiple angles.

Discipline 6: Implement a Permanent Fix

Now your solution is ready to be unleashed and monitored. Make sure it’s working properly and keep an eye out for side effects.

If it doesn’t seem to be working, re-trace your steps and make any necessary modifications.

Discipline 7: Prevent the Problem from Recurring

When you’re certain you’ve found the solution, gather your team to come up with a way to prevent the problem from arising again in the future. This could involve updating your company’s policies or procedures, or training others on the new process or standard.

Discipline 8: Celebrate your Success

Show your team you appreciate all of their hard work by thanking them all individually for their efforts and specific input.
Share your developments with the rest of your employees and keep them informed of the new way of working and problem-solving.

At ReAgent, we like to gather a team and progress through the 8D model whenever we encounter any major problems. To illustrate, here’s an example of a hypothetical issue that could well occur in our factory.


An example 8D model, click to enlarge.


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