The 5 Whys

Tim Tialdo January 15, 2012 Comments Off on The 5 Whys

One of the best and most effective ways to get to the heart of an issue is to ask the “5 whys.” As the name suggests, you ask 5 “why” questions in a row. 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 you to quickly determine the root cause of a problem.

· It’s simple, and easy to learn and apply

Here’s an example

1. Why is our client unhappy? Because we didn’t deliver our services when we said we would.

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

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

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

5. 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

The nest time you have a problem either in your business or even in your personal relationships, try the 5 whys technique and watch how fast you get to the core of the problem!


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