The Five Whys (5 Whys) – for Getting to the Root of a Problem Quickly

In Agile Coaching, one of the problem solving model/method that is widely used in “The 5 Whys”. It is an iterative interrogative technique and a very powerful tool that can help you to find the root cause of a problem, cutting quickly through the outward symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes.

Although five iterations of asking why is generally sufficient to get to a root cause i.e. to reveal the root cause of the problem, but the questioning for could be taken further to a sixth, seventh, or higher levels as well.

The technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. Apart from it’s use in coaching activities, the tool has seen widespread use beyond Toyota, and is now used within Kaizenlean manufacturing and Six Sigma

Perfect example of 5 Whys..

Jefferson Monument is deteriorating faster:

  1. Why does the memorial deteriorate faster?
    Because it gets washed more frequently.
  2. Why is it washed more frequently?
    Because it receives more bird droppings.
  3. Why are there more bird droppings?
    Because more birds are attracted to the monument.
  4. Why are more birds attracted to the monument?
    Because there are more fat spiders in and around the monument.
  5. Why are there more spiders in and around the monument?
    Because there are more tiny insects flying in and around the monument during evening hours.
  6. Why are there more insects?
    Because the monument’s illumination attracts more insects.

At the core of it is the philosophy is to never look at the things and accept it. Because when you ask Why – you are forcing yourself / someone else to question status quo and hopefully bring about the required changes and improvement.

For the analysis you should first identify the right working group. Sometime it’s necessary to engage the management in the five whys process in the company. Also consider bringing in a facilitator for more difficult topics.

Two primary techniques are used to perform a five whys analysis:

These tools allow for analysis to be branched in order to provide multiple root causes.

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