Root Cause Analysis: Most Important 5 Whys

Asking “why” constantly is not child’s play. In fact, it is a favorite technique used in conducting Root Cause Analysis (RCA). This tool is used in identifying the root cause of the problem. What makes it great is that it does not require one to do hypothesis testing, data segmentation, or even use advanced statistical tools.
The premise of this tool is to ask “why” five times. This makes it is easy to peel the layers of the symptoms observed in a particular problem. Once the layers of symptoms are stripped away, it reveals the root cause of the problem. Aside from being able to find out the root cause of the problem, it can also help determine the relationship of the causes that have been identified. This root cause analysis technique is very helpful in determining the root cause of problems involving human factors.

How to Conduct The 5 Whys?

As the easiest tool in conducting a risk analysis, the “5 whys” method is very easy to do.

Below are the steps on how to complete the “5 whys” tool:
Write the problem: Write the problem down on a clean sheet of paper. This step is necessary so that you can become familiarized with the problem at hand. Underneath the problem statement, describe it completely to add more details.
Ask: Ask why the problem happened in the first place and write the answer below the problem.
Dig deeper: If the answer that you wrote does not provide the root cause of the problem, ask “why” again, and write your answer below.
Repeat: Repeat the process until you have uncovered the truth. While it is advisable to ask only 5 whys, this process may help you determine the root cause by asking fewer or more whys.

Sample 5 Whys

Using this tool is really easy, and it does not require a lot of complicated steps.

Below is an example of how this tool should be done to determine the root cause successfully:
Problem: The customer does not want to pay for the business cards that you have printed
Why? The client ought to use the business card to an event he attended. However, the delivery was late.
Why? It took you a long time to send the finished business cards to the client.
Why? There was difficulty finding the right paper to make the business card.
Why? The purchasing department was not able to order the papers in time.
Why? Proper inventory was not done in the stockroom.

When to Use The 5 Whys?

The 5 whys are one of the simplest forms of troubleshooting a problem. You can use it in improving the quality of your organization’s process and in solving simple problems too. If, however, you encounter a difficult problem, this particular risk analysis tool is no longer effective especially when the problem involves multiple root causes.
Although this may be the case, the 5 whys are a great tool that can help direct you to the root cause of the problem. So, if your processes are not working well, then you should try this tool and see if it helps you learn more about the problem.

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