why why why why why …… 5 why’s

Why should we care about 5 why’s?  For a continuous improvement initiative you will need staff that see problems, react to problems and resolve problems. Lean has a go and see philosophy, which means that the decision making is based on in-depth understanding from the actual workplace, rather than from a report or a third party.

5 why's - Onion-layersThe staff are encouraged to look past the band aid approach, towards the underlying causes of the symptom, and are therefore required to peel away the layers of symptoms to get to the root cause. Staff need a simple tool that enables this, so the 5 why’s approach to problem solving was born out of this need. Literally the 5 why root cause analysis method is asking why until you get to the root cause. It is a simple tool that can be used by anyone and helps the team move away from just fixing the symptoms or relying on others to fix the problem.

Below is an example of using the 5 why’s tool in dealing with an IT operational issue.
Problem: Staff members often find they cannot save their work onto the network drive
WHY do staff members often find they cannot save their work onto the network drive?
Because they lose connection to the network drive
WHY do they lose connection to the network drive?
Because the network switches are overloaded.
WHY are the network switches overloaded?
Because they have not been updated to handle the additional load over the last 10 years.
WHY were they not updated to handle the additional load?
Because the network team was not given the funding to update the switches
WHY was the network team not given the funding to update the switches?
Because the management team did not understand the need to update the switches
WHY did the management team not understand the need to update the switches?
Because it has never been adequately explained to management of the risk and need of upgrading the network switches.

lean thinking man

To check whether your root cause analysis is accurate, run through the 5 why backward using THEREFORE.
You would check the example above through:
It has never been adequately explained to management of the risk and need of upgrading the network switches,THEREFORE management did not understand the need to upgrade the switches, THEREFORE the network team was not given the funding the upgrade the switches, THEREFORE the switches were not upgraded to handle the additional load,THEREFORE the switches were overloaded, THEREFORE the staff members lose connection to their network drives,THEREFORE they cannot save work.
This comes to the root cause of the issue: The management’s lack of understanding of the risk associated to the network and the need to upgrade the network. So then you can move to looking at a solution to deal with this problem. To find the solution you will need to broadly consider all possibilities to resolve this issue. Narrow these options based on cost, simplicity, area of control and ability to implement. Then test the narrowed options and select the best option to implement. The solution may be to delegate down the decisions on whether to upgrade the network to the ones doing the work, rather than holding all these decisions at the management level. Or it may be a standard process that needs to be put into place in upgrading network equipment or even a standard method of ranking upgrades. Make sure you test the various options to determine if they will solve the issue. Now you are ready for PDCA, which I will cover in a following post. With the example above you can see the power of using the simple 5 why’s technique, as this can highlight the real issue, rather than just the issue on the surface.  To learn more about this or our other services contact us.