The 5 Whys Technique: Origins

The 5 Whys steps method was developed by Sakichi Toyoda in Japan, who is also an inventor and founder of Toyota Industries. It was popularized in the 1970s and Toyota still uses it today to solve problems.

Toyota believes in a “go-and-see” approach to business. Toyota’s decision-making process is based on a deep understanding of the world. Actually It is happening Shop floor  Instead of focusing on who someone is in a boardroom, Think about it It could be.

This tradition is still true with the 5 Whys technique. It is more effective when people have firsthand experience with the problem or process in question.

It is very simple. When a problem arises, you ask “Why?” to find the root cause. Five times. You then follow up with a countermeasure if it becomes apparent. This will prevent the problem from recurring.

A 5 Whys Analysis: When should you use it?

Although you can use 5 Whys to solve problems, quality improvement and problem-solving issues, it’s most effective when used for simple or moderately complex problems.

If you have to deal with a difficult or complex problem, it may not work for you. The reason is that 5 Whys can lead to a narrower or more focused track of inquiry, when in reality there may be many causes. These cases call for a more comprehensive approach such as Cause and Effect Analysis  Or Failure Mode Analysis and Its Effects  It may be more efficient.

This simple method can often help you find the root cause of your problem quickly. If a system or process isn’t working correctly, you should give it a shot before you try to find a solution.

The tool’s simplicity allows it to be very flexible, and 5 Whys can be used in conjunction with other techniques and methods such as Root Cause Analysis  . It is often associated avec Lean Manufacturing  It is used to eliminate and identify wasteful practices. It is also used during the analysis phase. Six Sigma  Quality improvement method.

How to use the 5 Whys with steps

The seven-step model is very easy to follow:

1. Create a team

You will need to gather people who are familiar both with the details of the problem and the process you are trying to solve it. To facilitate the group and keep them focused on finding effective counter-measures, include someone.

2. Define the problem

If possible, observe the problem in action. Talk about it with your team members and create a short, clear problem statement you can all agree on. You might say, “Team A isn’t meeting its response times targets” or “Software releaseB resulted in too few rollback failures.”

Next, you will need to write your statement on a sticky note or whiteboard. You should leave enough space for your answers to the repeated question “Why?”

3. Ask the First “Why?”

Ask your team why this problem is occurring. Ask your team why Team A isn’t meeting its response time targets.

Asking “Why?” Although it sounds easy, answering this question requires thought. You need to search for facts-based answers. They must reflect actual events, not speculations about what might have been.

5 Whys is not a deductive process. This can lead to a lot of confusion and a lot of possible causes.

One reason your team members might give is obvious, but there may be several. Write down their answers in succinct sentences, not as long statements or single words, and place them beside your problem statement. A simple “volume of calls is excessive” is better than an inexplicable “overloaded”.

4. Ask “Why?” Four More Times

Ask four more “Whys” for each answer you have generated in Step 3. Frame the question according to the answer that you have just recorded.

5. Step 5. Know when to stop

When asking “why?” produces no useful answers, you will know you have identified the root cause of your problem. The root cause of the problem should be identified and a countermeasure or process change implemented. (As we mentioned earlier, if it isn’t clear that you have identified the root cause of your problem, you might consider using a deeper problem-solving method like Analysis of Cause and Effect , Root Cause Analysis  Or FMEA  .)

Repeat Step 3 if you identify more than one cause. This will allow you to reach the root cause of each problem.

6. The Root Cause

Once you have identified the root cause of the problem, it is time to discuss and agree upon the counter-measures you will take to prevent it from happening again.

7. Keep an eye on your measurements

You should be watching how well your countermeasures work to eliminate or minimize the original problem. They may need to be modified or replaced entirely. To ensure you have identified the root cause, it is a good idea for you to go through the 5 Whys again.


An alternative question-based approach called “appreciation” can be used to help you uncover factors that are important in a particular situation that you may not have otherwise.

This tool was initially developed by the military for commanders to help them gain a complete understanding of any situation, fact or problem. It can be used in the workplace.

You start with a fact and then ask the question “So what?” Also, ask yourself what the implications are of this fact. This fact is important.

Continue asking the question until you have reached all conclusions.

This technique differs from the 5 Whys steps method in that appreciation can be used to extract the most information from a statement of fact, while 5 Whys can drill down to the root cause of a problem.