How to use the 5 Whys technique,
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.
James Manktelow: Hello. I'm James Manktelow, CEO of MindTools.com, home to hundreds of free career-boosting tools and resources.
AC: And I'm Amy Carlson from Mind Tools.
Think back to the last time you were sick.
Chances are, you took something for your coughs and sneezes because they were making you uncomfortable. But, you probably only took medicine for the symptoms you had. The real root of the problem may have gone untreated.
When we have to deal with problems at work, many times those issues are just symptoms of a deeper issue.
And, solving those surface problems is just like treating our sneezes and coughs.
It works in the short term, but we're not dealing with the real cause.
JM: One technique that you can use to get to the root of any problem quickly is the 5 Whys Technique.
To use this technique, you start with the problem you're facing, and then keep asking "Why?" until you've discovered the root cause.
You can use this technique on your own, or with a group.
AC: For instance, imagine that the IT team in your organization has just rolled out new software.
But, the problem is, that no one on your team is using the software, even though they've all been trained.
So, you use the 5 Whys technique in a meeting to get to the root of the problem.
JM: 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 doesn't recognize their passwords sometimes. And, even when they do get in, the system asks them for information that they don't have.
AC: 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 like that. So, they don't get reimbursed if they use the system.
JM: In this case, it took just three questions to get to the root of the problem.
The system is asking for information that your people often don't have, and it's not recognizing their passwords.
So, they're avoiding the system 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 system as they should have.
But now you know what you really need to do to resolve the situation.
AC: The 5 Whys technique is an easy way to get to the root of a problem. Just by asking "Why," time after time, you can discover the real issues that need your attention.
You can find out more about using the 5 Whys technique in the article that accompanies this video.