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5 Whys

Video Transcript

Learn how to drill down into a problem,
to get to its root and solve it quickly and effectively.

Many problems at work are just symptoms of deeper issues. Therefore, to solve a problem effectively, so it doesn't reoccur, we need to drill down to identify the underlying cause.

Sakichi Toyoda's 5 Whys technique is a simple way to do this. To use it, you start with the problem you're facing, and then keep asking “Why?” until you've discovered the root cause. 

For instance, imagine the IT team in your organization has just rolled out new software for tracking everyone's expenses. But, no one on your team is using it, even though they've all been trained.

So, you use the 5 Whys Technique to get to the root of the problem. You start by asking why people aren't using the new software. They say that they don't like it. And, that it's a pain to use.

You then ask WHY they don't like it. They tell you that the system asks them for information they don't have.

You then ask them WHY they don't have the necessary information. They say that the system wants their scanned receipts, which is fine. But it also wants them to list exactly what they bought. Sometimes, the receipts don't list individual items. When this happens, they can't use the software.

In this case, it took just three WHY questions to get to the root of the problem. The system is asking for information that your people often don't have. So, they're avoiding it because it's not useful.

If you hadn't used the 5 Whys technique, you might just have scolded your team, again, for not using the software as they should have. But now you know what you need to do to resolve the situation.

The 5 Whys technique is a simple way to get to the root of a problem. You can find out more about it in the article that accompanies this video.

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Comments (17)
  • Over a month ago James wrote
    Hi Everyone

    We've given this popular article a review, and the updated version is now at
    http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/newTMC_5W.php

    Discuss the article by replying to this post!

    Thanks

    James
  • Over a month ago MichaelP wrote
    Judestar23 hi so we agree on the intention:

    The "5 whys" helps to move past assumptions and get to the truth.

    And the origin: A very good technique used by 2 and 3 year olds

    Now to the crux of the matter and the HUGE opportunity: However I think in the workplace you can't just wrap up the conversation in exasperation by saying "Just because!!" It is good to put thought into why a situation has developed or occurred so that lessons can be learned and similar mistakes avoided.

    Creating the 'learning organization' is the goal for many and its a tough reality. Companies just what to grow, win more customers, and finding the time to learn and engage their employees is often hard to do.

    Thank you for sharing and please keep us posted on your progress.

    cheers Michael
  • Over a month ago judestar23 wrote
    A very good technique used by 2 and 3 year olds Thay seek to gain a better understanding of the world around them and challenge the adults in their lives to come up with genuine reasons "WHY?!" However I think in the workplace you can't just wrap up the conversation in exasperation by saying "Just because!!" It is good to put thought into why a situation has developed or occured so that lessons can be learned and similar mistakes avoided. The "5 whys" helps to move past assumptions and get to the truth.
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