The 5 Whys

The 5 Whys
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The 5 Whys Problem Solving

The 5 Whys Problem Solving technique is a simple process to follow to solve any problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why” Five times is a good rule of thumb to peel away the layers of symptoms that can lead to the root cause of a problem.

This strategy relates to the principle of systematic problem solving. The five why’s is one way to identify the root of a problem. This is a simple but powerful tool for cutting quickly through the outward symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes. A root cause is the most basic reason, which if eliminated, would prevent reoccurrence.

Also this technicque provides a framework for a team to work through a more complex problem.

Activity Procedure:

  1. Write down the specific problem.
    – Writing the issue helps you formalize the problem and describe it completely.
    – It helps a team focus on the same problem.
    – Always describe the current condition.
    – Use data where possible.
  2. Ask WHY the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem.
  3. If the answer provided doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem that you wrote in step 1, ask WHY again and write that answer down.
  4. Loop back to step 3 until the team is in agreement that the problem’s root cause is identified.
A The 5 Whys Example
  1. Why have so many students expressed dissatisfaction about Mr. Harrison’s class? Because they find him boring
  2. Why do they find him boring? Because he prefers the lecture method
  3. Why does he prefer the lecture method? Because it means he does not have to prepare extensively with presentations and activities
  4. Why does he not want to include presentations and activities in class? Because he is not confident about the use of technology
  5. Why is he not confident about use of technology? Because he has not undergone any training in the use of technology.
See also  Futures Wheel

This method helps to get to the root of the problem. Of course the number of Why’s can vary.

But the technique helps to locate the cause without any special tools!

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