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5 Whys

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Description

The 5 Whys exercise helps project teams to identify the root cause issue(s) of a specific problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why?” until the underlying root cause issue or issues are identified. As the exercise is performed, the Belt will iterate and dive deeper into the issues as each answer forms the basis for the next question.

The 5 Whys tool is most effective when resolving simple or moderately difficult problems. For most simple problems, the 5 Whys exercise will follow a single lane of inquiry. However, for some problems, the 5 Whys exercise will branch off into multiple lanes of inquiry.

To complete the 5 Whys exercise, apply the following steps:

  1. Form a team and identify a facilitator to keep the team focused.
  2. Define the problem.
  3. Ask the First “Why?”
  4. Repeatedly ask “Why?” until the root cause is uncovered.

The 5 Whys technique is a simple and effective way of addressing root cause issues. After the team has drilled down to identify the root cause or causes, they can then design and implement counter-measures to address the root cause issues, preventing them from recurring.

To learn more about 5 whys, check out our overview video.

To view some of the other improvement tools we have available, please visit our online resource center.

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