What is 5 Whys Technique and How to Perform 5 Why Analysis ?
Unforeseen events or problems may occur in any process. Mostly things don’t go as planned. When a problem occurs within a project, the project team often tries to find a quick but temporary solution in order to overcome. However, quick solutions become useless due to the complexity of the problem as the project progress. If the root cause of a problem is not being identified or addressed, it will occur again. Likewise, if you don’t implement a permanent solution for the problem, the problem will repeat until it is solved. 5 Whys technique is a simple technique that helps to eliminate problems by determining their root causes. In this article, we will discuss 5 Why analysis and it’s implementation steps by the help of simple 5 why examples.
What is 5 Whys Technique?
5 Whys is a technique used to determine the root cause of a problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why”.
The technique was developed in the 1930’ s by Mr. Sakichi Toyoda who is the founder of Toyota Industries and then became a worldwide technique which is used by Toyota and many other companies today.
Basically, the 5 Whys is a simple technique that relies on asking “Why” several times to understand all the signs of a problem. It is often used in conjunction with other techniques such as fishbone diagram, six sigma DMAIC and Deming Cycle (PDCA).
When to Use this Technique?
The 5 Whys technique can be used for troubleshooting, quality improvement and problem solving purposes. Whenever a system or process doesn’t work properly, you can implement this technique to develop a solution. It can be used during the analyze phase of the DMAIC, plan phase of the PDCA, identify and eliminate phase of the lean manufacturing.
How to Perform 5 Why Analysis?
Below steps can be followed for making a 5 Whys analysis.
Step 1. Assemble a Team
A team should be formed in order to make brain storming for the root cause of a problem. Team members should be familiar with the detail of the problem. Team members will bring their expertise and viewpoint related to the problem and ask crucial questions.
Step 2. Define the Problem
Defining the problem clearly is the first thing in the 5 Whys technique that the team should do. In this step, the problem should be defined clearly and a concise problem statement should be written. If the problem statement is clear and explanatory enough, the team will spend less time to solve the problem. At this step, the scope of the problem should also be determined. The scope of the problem should reflect the size and characteristics of the problem. If the scope of the problem is large, you will need extensive improvements to the problem. If the scope is narrow, improvements will be small.
Step 3. Ask “Why?”
In this step, the team leader asks the team “Why” the problem occurred and the team answers the question. Then the team leader asks if the identified causes were corrected, could the problem still occur. If the team answers “Yes”, then the team leader should ask “Why” again.
Sometimes the root cause can be identified in the third or fourth “Why” and in some cases, it can not be identified in the fifth “Why”.
The responses of the team members should focus on the process and system errors. The responses should not be affected by the team members bias and emotions. Otherwise, results may be misleading.
Step 4. Determine and Implement Corrective Actions
Once the root cause of the problem is identified, a list of appropriate corrective actions should be created to address each root cause. At this step, the master assigns responsibility for the corrective actions to the participants in the discussion.
Note that there is no specific format used to document the 5 Whys exercise. Some organizations use their own detailed formats, others use various formats.
Simple 5 Why Examples
For better understanding the 5 Whys technique, let’s review the examples below.
Problem statement – The client refused to pay the progress payment.
- Why did the client refuse to pay the progress payment? Because we completed the activity late.
- Why did we complete the activity late? Because the activity took longer than estimated.
- Why did the activity take longer than estimated? Because we couldn’t bring enough material for the activity.
- Why didn’t we bring enough material? Because we didn’t purchase on time.
- Why didn’t we purchase the materials on time? Because we didn’t analyze the work schedule.
The root cause of the problem is that we didn’t analyze the work schedule. Corrective action is to create good communication channels within the project team and assemble progress meetings regularly to avoid lack of communication and coordination.
What are the Key Benefits of the 5 Whys Technique ?
- It helps to determine the root cause of a problem
- It helps to identify more problems during the performance of 5 Whys analysis for a problem.
- It encourages team members to share their ideas and expertise
- It is an effective tool which is very easy to use
- It improves decision making
In this article, we analyzed the 5 Whys technique with the help of an example. Basically, the 5 Whys analysis is an effective tool for determining the root cause of a problem. It can be used as a part of “The Fishbone Diagram” for problem solving. Also, this technique is widely used in the analyze phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) practices.
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