Ask Why Five Times

Getting to the root of an issue


Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Whys technique in the 1930s. It became popular in the 1970s, and Toyota still uses it to solve problems today.

It has also been used in The Lean Startup model.

For more in-depth origin information and use cases visit these articles by Mind Tools and Buffer.

When to use

You can use 5 Whys for troubleshooting, quality improvement, and problem-solving, but it is most effective when used to resolve simple or moderately difficult problems.

It may not be suitable if you need to tackle a complex or critical problem. This is because 5 Whys can lead you to pursue a single track, or a limited number of tracks, of inquiry when, in fact, there could be multiple causes.

Use of a Five Why’s session is never to assign blame to a person, team, or other – it is used to identify what you don’t know, have overlooked, or for unexpected issues that arise.

Getting started

  1. Assemble your team
  2. Assign a facilitator for your “WHY” session
  3. Define the problem
  4. Ask your first why
  5. Ask why four more times
  6. Address your root issue from here

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