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How to Perform 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis

How to Perform 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis

5 Whys Root Cause Analysis is a problem-solving technique that helps identify the root cause of an issue—developed by Toyota’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda. At its core, this method is all about finding the underlying issue instead of just treating symptoms. 

Quick tip: Using our online 5 Whys tool makes problem solving easier. Access it for free here.

Understanding 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis

The 5 Whys is a problem-solving technique used to identify the root cause of an issue. It involves asking “why” five times to understand a given problem’s underlying reason.The idea behind this approach is that by repeatedly asking “why,” the actual source of the problem can be identified and addressed. The 5 Whys can also provide insights into potential solutions that may have yet to be considered.

Companies should use this technique when trying to identify hidden causes or dive deeper into understanding complex issues to develop effective solutions. When using the 5 Whys, ask “Why” a specific issue has occurred. Then ask this question five more times to explore the cause-and-effect relationships behind the problem. 

After each Why question is asked, it should be followed up with another question. That next question seeks to gather more information about what made that particular thing happen. This process should be repeated until the most likely root cause has been identified.

Companies can benefit from using the 5 Whys technique in problem-solving because it encourages them to move beyond surface-level solutions and dig deeper into the root cause of a problem.

Steps to Perform the 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis

The following are the steps to using the 5 Whys:

Step 1: Define the Problem

Step 2: Ask “Why?” Five Times

Step 3: Identify the Root Cause

Step 4: Develop Countermeasures

Step 5: Implement and Monitor the Countermeasures

Here’s an example of using The 5 Whys:

Let’s say a company experienced a decrease in sales over a certain period. To better understand why that happened, they could use the 5 Whys technique to analyze the root cause of their decreased sales.

The company might begin by asking, “Why did our sales decrease?” If the answer is “We didn’t have enough inventory,” they could dig deeper by asking, “Why didn’t we have enough inventory?” 

If their response to this question reveals that the lead time for ordering and receiving new stock was too long, they might ask, “Why was our lead time too long?” The company might discover that the supplier couldn’t process their orders quickly enough.

This could lead to more questions about why the supplier could not fulfill requests within the required timeframe. After working through these questions, the company might discover that communication with the supplier was poor, and they couldn’t provide accurate information about their needs promptly.

Using the 5 Whys technique, the company can drill down to uncover the root cause of their sales decrease – poor communication with the supplier due to a lack of accurate information provided on time. By addressing this issue, they can improve their ordering process and sales.

Tips for Effective 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis

Team Composition and Communication

Practical 5 Whys root cause analysis is a powerful tool for teams to identify and solve problems quickly. To get the most out of this technique, key factors should be considered when considering team composition and communication.

The team working on the Whys must be composed of experienced individuals who understand the problem and its associated context. This will help ensure that questions are asked with a sense of purpose to identify the underlying cause.

It is critical to ensure team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas. This helps to create an atmosphere conducive to open dialogue and encourages an environment of trust and respect.

Avoiding Assumptions and Bias

The 5 Whys root cause analysis is an excellent tool for avoiding assumptions and bias when it comes to troubleshooting. By asking “why” five times, organizations identify the root causes of any quickly and accurately. 

Remember that the process is carried out in an unbiased way, with each question asked being viewed with fresh eyes. Also, remember to focus on fixing the PROCESS rather than blaming the PEOPLE.

Want to Get Started the Easy Way?

If you want to improve your problem-solving skills, the 5 Whys technique is an excellent tool in your arsenal. At Chalmer’s St. Consulting, we’re committed to helping businesses achieve their goals through effective problem-solving strategies. We encourage you to access our free 5 Whys Template online. It’s free!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need assistance in implementing this technique or if you have any questions. Together, we can achieve excellence and positively impact our personal and professional lives.