“The 5 Whys” is a simple and effective root cause analysis tool that targets problems to expose systemic weaknesses or issues by simply asking “Why?”. This method was developed by Sakichi Toyoda in the 1930’s and is still used within the Toyota Motor Company to solve problems. 

The simple and streamlined process quickly cuts to the root cause without cumbersome or complex statistical analysis. 

Any “5 Why” method should include all stakeholders affected by the problem since they have the most knowledge of the processes involved, and the problem being evaluated. The process begins with a facilitator leading the discussion and asking for everyone’s insight of the problem. The facilitator asks why the problem occurred; participants expose required facts then determine corrective actions, solutions, and countermeasures. The process is complete if the root cause is exposed after the first attempt, but often requires multiple attempts Well-defined corrective actions are assigned to the team members with deadlines then the process is revised and implemented. Results should be reviewed to ensure effectiveness of corrective actions and the process updated again if necessary. 

Below is a basic template of “The 5 Why” process:

Here is a generic “5 Why” analysis with examples that apply to everyday work. You will see that there could be multiple answers throughout the process, and it may be necessary to perform the exercise multiple times to expose all symptoms and root causes. 

Problem: Exceeding a proposed budget on a project

Possible Solutions or Corrective Actions

  • Train local employees on local site and project requirements. 
  • Work share with another office to free up currently trained employee.  
  • Forecast projected workload to quantify manpower shortage. 
  • Determine scheduling options to align work with current resources. 

Using tools such as the “5 Why Process” in root cause analysis and problem solving is a proven technique to support continuous improvement, one of our four Middough core values.