The 5 Whys: Root Cause Analysis for Better Problem Solving
This is easy to explain but not always easy to implement (especially consistently).
Simple as that! Right?
The 5 Whys Toyota Origin
The origin of the technique is typically attributed to Sakichi Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno at Toyota Motor Corporation¹:
We come across problems in all sorts of situations in life, but, according to Taiichi Ohno, pioneer of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, ‘Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.’ Ohno saw a problem not as a negative, but, in fact, as ‘a kaizen (continuous improvement) opportunity in disguise.’ Whenever one cropped up, he encouraged his staff to explore problems first-hand until the root causes were found. ‘Observe the production floor without preconceptions,’ he would advise. ‘Ask why five times about every matter.’
Check out this 3-minute video on the 5 Whys from Eric Ries, entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School:
This is very flexible—sometimes you only need three whys and in other cases you may need more than five.
Have you tried the 5 Whys? Let me know in the comments!
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