"Be the change that you wish to see in the world.", Mahatma Gandhi

Project Outcomes

Find a creativity technique
New creativity technique

What is 5 Whys?

5 Whys

1. What is 5 Whys?

http://www.appladesign.net/domains/create//documents/Picture25_-_Copy_496.pngThis technique is believed to be originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and it was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem-solving training, delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System. The architect of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, described the 5 Whys method as "the basis of Toyota's scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear." [1]

The 5 Whys is an iterative question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem. (The "5" in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem.) [1]

5 Whys is based on personal opinion on what the causes are, and two people performing 5-why analysis on the same problem can come up with widely differing causes and completely different root causes. Therefore only the person who experienced the problem can do 5-why analysis, as they should have enough expertise to perform an accurate analysis.

Why should use 5 Whys?

  • Finding root causes allows solving the true problem.
  • Potential root causes require in depth interrogation. Often the initial root causes proposed are not the real root causes.
  • The 5 Why’s technique pushes and tests the understanding of root causes and avoids superficial causes being accepted.
  • Use it to identify root causes for problems which are not clear and may have a deeper real cause.
  • Use it during the analysis phase to gain a deeper understanding of root cause by pushing understanding of potential root causes.
  • Not asking Why enough times can lead to a superficial root cause. Ensure that the process is repeated enough times until the team is happy that a good potential root cause has been identified.http://www.appladesign.net/domains/create//documents/Picture27_-_Copy_495.png

When attempting to solve a problem, a common error is to stop too soon when you're hunting down cause.  People keep taking the first or second simple answer, blinded by the symptoms or settling for the first 'apparent' cause. The first 'cause' offered is almost never the real root cause. And it's only when you find the real cause/s - not just symptoms - that you can take really effective action to remove the cause and prevent the problem cropping up again.


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication
reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any
use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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