Why Why Why Why Why – The Five Whys?

why why why why why five whys


We just finished listening to Mark Graban’s interview with Lean Startup author Eris Ries. The two talk about Taiichi Ohno’s influence on their lean methodologies.

Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which later became Lean Manufacturing. His written experiences at Toyota heavily influenced the manufacturing industries across the globe.

The two agree that Ohno’s books may lack the western style instruction many readers seek out however do praise the author on his alternative approach to manufacturing and it’s powerful application across all industries.

What stood out from the interview was Eric’s impressions of Ohno’s approach to root cause analysis – the five whys. The approach is a simplistic but powerful method of solving problems. Let us take a look…


The “5 Whys” Problem Solving Approach

Essentially the five whys ask why until the cause of the problem is identified. This leads to the ultimate question – How do we fix this problem once and for all? You can keep asking why until you drive out all issues.

Here is an example (Wikipedia):

The Problem: The vehicle will not start.

First Why? Why? – The battery is dead.
Second Why? Why? – The alternator is not functioning.
Third Why? Why? – The alternator belt has broken.
Fourth Why? Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced.
Fifth Why? Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule.
Sixth Why? Why? – Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle.

Often we overlook the cause of problems; or shy away from asking the simple questions. Sometimes going back to basics can solve the most complex questions.

Did this help? Let us know.


You might also enjoy:
+ The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
+ Helpful Startup Tools For Entrepreneurs

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