Process Improvement: Why Why Why Why Why (5 Whys)

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

The first tool we are going to take a look at is called the Five Why Analysis or 5 Whys. You may be tempted to overlook this tool because it seems too simple. The truth is, it is simple. Its simplicity is part of the key to its effectiveness. Don’t be fooled, this tool can help you get to the root cause of a problem or opportunity in no time.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

5 Whys is a process improvement tool that doesn’t require any special training or statistical analysis. It focuses on a basic step by step approach to uncovering the root cause of a problem. By continuingly asking why something happens, you are able to drill down to the root cause of a problem quickly and directly. The number five is just a reference to a rule of thumb for iterations of the question why. You may find that a successful analysis takes a few more or a few less steps depending on its complexity. To learn more about the 5 Why tool to problem solving click here.

How can you do it? 

  1. Define the problem. In order to arrive at an answer, you must first have a clearly defined problem. Write out the problem or opportunity statement to initiate the process.
  2. Ask why. The first step is to ask why your problem statement is true. The answer to this question will launch into your root cause analysis.
  3. Repeat. Continue the process of asking why until you and your team are confident that you have arrived at a root cause for your problem that is actionable.
  4. Make a plan. Once you have your root cause, take action. Create a plan that is actionable and measurable.

What are some examples of the 5 Why technique that you have used to improve a process?  Log on and join the conversation at  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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