Friday, July 31, 2009


5 Whys - Quickly getting to the root of the problem

The 5 Whys is a simple problem-solving technique that helps users to get to the root of the problem quickly. Made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, the 5 Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and asking: "Why?" and "What caused this problem?"

Very often, the answer to the first "why" will prompt another "why" and the answer to the second "why" will prompt another and so on; hence the name the 5 Whys strategy.

Benefits of the 5 Whys include:
  • It helps to quickly determine the root cause of a problem
  • It is easy to learn and apply


How to use the 5 Whys:

When looking to solve a problem, start at the end result and work backward (toward the root cause), continually asking: "Why?" This will need to be repeated over and over until the root cause of the problem becomes apparent.

Example:

Following is an example of the 5 Whys analysis as an effective problem-solving technique:

  • Why is our client, unhappy? Because we did not deliver our services when we said we would.

  • Why were we unable to meet the agreed-upon timeline or schedule for delivery? The job took much longer than we thought it would.

  • Why did it take so much longer? Because we underestimated the complexity of the job.

  • Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and did not list the individual stages needed to complete the project.

  • Why didn't we do this? Because we were running behind on other projects. We clearly need to review our time estimation and specification procedures.