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Five Whys

Five Whys Analysis

What is a Five Whys workshop?

A Five Whys workshop helps you get to the root cause of a problem affecting your project. This tactic channels your inner inquisitive toddler and asks “why?” five times to get to the heart of the issue.

By identifying the root cause, you don’t waste time solving superficial problems. This is best conducted after an unexpected event or challenge.

Try uncovering problems with Journey Map or the barriers from Sailboat. Works well with Who, What, When to follow up actions at the end of the session.


Five Whys Miro Template


How to run a Five Whys workshop

1. Invite all affected parties to the meeting.

2. Select a meeting leader to lead the discussion.

3. Ask “why?” five times. Include the previous answer in the question to keep a narrow focus on the problem.

4. Use Who, What, When to assign responsibility for putting solutions into action.

An example from Toyota:

“Why did the robot stop?”
The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.

“Why is the circuit overloaded?”
There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.

“Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?”
The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.

“Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?”
The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.

“Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?”
Because there is no filter on the pump.

Origin: Sakichi Toyoda, 1930

Not sure if this is the right approach for your team at the moment? Try a different tactic for understanding the problems and challenges you face. Or if you’re happy that you know what the next big challenge is for your team, try a framing tactic to help you articulate your problem, ready for solving.

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Five Whys is one of 54 workshop recipe cards inside the Workshop Tactics card deck.

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