When crises strike, teams can take a variety of different actions. Ford saw the need for the creation of a single system through which managers could train their teams to solve problems quickly, so as to boost their revenues and keep their clients happy. The product of this thinking was Ford’s famous theory of the 8 disciplines of problem-solving. In this post we will explain how these disciplines work and how they can be applied to your business, to save you money, through effective containment followed by the implementation of long-term countermeasures.


First Discipline – Plan

Planning is integral when responding to any problem which could strike your business. Detailed advanced planning has three major advantages for both large and small organisations. The first is to allow your team to calmly work out exactly how they will respond to the issue in order to resolve it as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. The second is that a good plan lets each member of the team know exactly what their role is in preventing further escalation of the situation and to do what they need to do without the unnecessary delays which can cause a minor difficulty to spiral into a crisis. The most important advantage of planning is that it allows you to put policies in place which prevent the problem from recurring in the future and costing your business time and money.


Second Discipline – Create A Team

Sometimes in a crisis, you need particular expertise, requiring you to bring in specialists to assist, or even to replace some of the existing members of the team that you work with on day-to-day tasks in the office. Taking the time to pick the best people for the jobs required will help you to secure the long-term solution to the problem that gives you the result you need. It may be that staff with the skills you need are already working on other projects in your office, in which case, carefully planning your team will allow you to maximise the value of their skills to your organisation.


Third Discipline – Define And Describe The Problem

Unless you know exactly what you are facing, you won’t be able to fix the issue. For example, generally mentioning that one of the taps in your huge office loo has stopped working is about as useful to a plumber, as a fridge is for keeping coffee hot. It is possible that some individuals may want to avoid blame for a problem, and therefore might not declare every aspect of the impending crisis in which they have played a part to their colleagues. This attitude will see a problem lurch into a crisis, before developing into a horrible premonition of impending doom. If impending doom isn’t your thing, then it is vital to fully disclose and explain any problems which may arise, so that your team can resolve them as quickly as possible.

Fourth Discipline – Contain The Problem

Imagine if you have a pot full of boiling, overflowing stew on your stove. Now imagine what happens if that pot gets thrown onto the floor. You would probably have to spend at least an hour cleaning up the mess, ruining several cloths in the process. The same is true for problems at work. If the situation is not contained, it can rapidly spiral out of control and consume vast quantities of your resources. Therefore it is vital to factor rapid containment into your problem-solving plan so that you can minimise the risk of the problem spreading throughout your organisation and engulfing you in crisis. 8D problem solving is famed for its promotion of containment, and this strategy places the protection of internal customers (your staff) and external customers (your clients) at the heart of your crisis management strategy. That way your business loses the least value possible while the affected by the problem, as those who add value to it are as protected from the worst consequences of the issue as possible. A disadvantage of containment is that temporary fixes to issues will increase your businesses costs in the short term. These costs will be removed by countermeasures brought about by the effective development of corrective actions into long-term preventative measures.


Fifth Discipline – Choose Corrective Actions

This principle can be summarised as simply knowing what your team needs to do to resolve a problem. By opting for a fixed protocol in response to developing situations, you can ensure a calm and considered resolution to the problem. There will be no room for doubt or panic, as everyone in your team will know exactly how you expect them to respond if the desired corrective actions are clearly chosen and explained to them in advance.


Sixth Discipline – Implement And Validate Corrective Actions

You’re not paying your crisis management team to spend the day drinking coffee. Make sure that the corrective actions you require them to implement are clearly expressed, and then check that those actions have been completed in line with an agreed timescale. Careful documentation of corrective actions is essential if they are to add value to your organisation. Notes should be made of which actions were chosen when they were chosen, when they were implemented, how effectively they were implemented, and whether their implementation is complete or ongoing. That way you can evaluate how well-suited each member of your team is to the role you assigned them.


Seventh Discipline – Take Preventative Measures

Make sure that horrendous situations do not repeat themselves by implementing preventive measures. These measures could be as simple as placing signs around your work environment. However, the measures may need to reach far more widely into an organisation. Sometimes difficult questions need to be asked in order to eliminate the root causes of problems in that organisation. It is important that team members put their personal feelings to one side, and take the actions required to prevent problems from recurring, even if those problems bring home some hard truths about long-standing practices or certain common staff behaviours at that organisation. These preventative countermeasures will be vital to your business in order to have a cost-effective crisis management plan. These countermeasures are often known as ‘100-year fixes’ which stay in place until further notice so that your business is not exposed to the excessive costs which containment can bring.


Eighth Discipline – Congratulate Your Team

Congratulating your team means more than buying a box of chocolates for the office (although that helps.) These congratulations will make your team feel valued and will let them know that you appreciate all of them. Any team which has chosen to retrospectively analyse their performance and make improvements to it, while discreetly and calmly managing the short-term consequences of serious problems, is an asset to any organisation. By communicating to them how much you value them, as well as admiration, you will also breed loyalty in your team and make it easier to persuade your best staff to stay with you, rather than to leave for a competitor.


These disciplines will save you money, by preventing problems from developing into an all-consuming crisis which can often reduce both your organisation’s resources and reputation simultaneously. They will also stop the same problems from happening on multiple occasions. Moreover, careful evaluation of these disciplines’ implementation will allow you to identify staff who are not contributing sufficiently to the team and remove them from projects to which they are not adding value. The last thing any manager wants or needs is to sit by while uncommitted staff cost them money.