The 5 Whys Analysis technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda and is used as a simple problem-solving tool. The 5 Whys is a great way to uncover the root cause of a problem by going deeper than the initial surface level answer given.
What are the 5 Whys?
Well, that one is surprisingly simple: they're all 'Why?'
Only, each why delves slightly deeper on the previous answer given, and provides a new answer to the 'same' question.
Example of the 5 Whys in action
Here's an example of how the 5 Whys works:
1: Why was our product launch 3 weeks delayed?
Answer: We underestimated the scope of build.
2: Why did we underestimate the build scope?
Answer: We added new features to the scope as we went.
3: Why did we add new features that were outside of scope?
Answer: We didn’t have a clear understanding of what was missing before we started.
4: Why did we provide a scope without knowing the necessary features?
Answer: The launch date was set well in advance and we wanted to meet it.
5: Why was the launch date set before knowing the scope of build required?
Answer: We don’t know, but it was passed down in the Q1 roadmap.
As you can see, in the process of simply asking, 'Why?', we dive deeper and deeper into what looks more like a 'root cause' of the issue.
Using the 5 Whys as a business owner
Often, the 5 Whys is displayed as an exercise to be used in team environments. But you can also use it to better introspect on problems you're facing in your own business. It can help you arrive at solutions to problems quicker, with greater clarity.
Notion 5 Whys Analysis Template
Typically, this exercise was done on whiteboards and by hand in notebooks; but it's 2022, and of course we've created a Notion template to help map out the 5 whys analysis process for you.
Here's how it works:
- Add your trigger question to the top of the table;
- List your immediate answer to this question (don't provide any solutions just yet);
- Take that answer and rephrase it as a question in the '2' tag question;
- Repeat this process all the way down to the bottom of the table;
- Then, go back up to the top and start listing solutions to each 'level' in the Solutions tag section;
- You can view all your solutions once done by simply hitting the Solutions property and viewing the full list;
- Label your 5 whys with the 'Exercise' column, then archive all questions and solutions once you're done by hitting the archive checkbox--that way you can reuse the same table over and over while keeping a record of past exercises and findings.