5 Whys Analysis Method: Discover the root cause of problems


5 whys analysis method


The 5 Whys analysis method, is a tool closely linked to total quality management and continuous improvement in companies. It was developed and improved by Toyota, having emerged as an important element to assist in the resolution of internal problems.

Its creator, Taiichi Ohno, was an architect of the Toyota production system in the 1950s and described the method in his book  Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production  as the basis of the company’s scientific approach.

It consists of repeating the question “Why?” regarding an issue to be investigated in an organization and as a result, it becomes easier to get to the root cause of the problem.

In this post, we will show you how and why to use the 5 whys analysis method. Check it out!

All about the 5 whys analysis method

How do you use the 5 Whys analysis method?

Just like a child who is curious about each new discovery, the technique is to ask yourself why several times about events until you feel confident you understand the situation.

Some facts will require five or more questions, while others may need less. Asking five times is not an immutable rule, this will depend on the complexity of the problem you are analyzing.

For example, a company is having difficulty delivering products. After a few questions, they detect a stock management failure is the root cause. This failure was identified as an internal problem of the organization itself, not the shipping company.

In this way,after using the 5 whys analysis method the company can change the efficiency of its stock management and eliminate the problem. The questions to get to the root of the problem could be:

  1. Why are our products consistently being delivered late? Because they were sent late.
  2. Why are products being sent late? Because production is past deadline.
  3. Why did the production deadline pass? Because the materials for the products were not available.
  4. Why were the materials not available? Because they were not requested on time from the supplier.
  5. Why were the materials not ordered on time from the supplier? Because stock control did not keep up with the increased demand for the materials.

Why is 5 whys problem solving helpful?

On a daily basis, it is common to solve problems according to their symptoms, since it is difficult to find the time and ability to delve into them. With 5 whys problem solving, it becomes easier and more practical to get a satisfactory result when solving problems.

In this way, the 5 whys analysis method focuses on the root cause of events and prevents them from reappearing in other situations. A simple and efficient trick to eliminate small but constant flaws that hinder the development of processes.

This method makes a team reflect on the problems in more depth. Focusing on reaching a root cause, the symptoms of the problems come together to show what is really causing the failure. That way, it’s much easier to come up with a solution to the problems.

Investing in problem analysis also causes teams to come together, which is essential for the development of a company’s activities. For a more organized group analysis method, you can use Brainstorming.

When to use 5 whys problem solving

This is an interesting method to be used together when a group is faced with a complex problem, since different people can come up with different answers to the same problem.

By holding meetings and discussing in a group, it is easier to reach a consensus on the causes of the problems and thus have a clearer vision of which way to go.

In order for the 5 whys root cause analysis method to be successful, teams must be completely honest when responding, and always keep in mind that this methodology is complementary to others of greater complexity. If it is not enough, you can use methods such as the Ishikawa Diagram or the PDCA Cycle.

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