Finding the root cause of a problem is the only way to get rid of the problem. Many times, it takes awhile to actually find out what is causing the issue, but the time spent is well worth it. Six Sigma has a simple yet brilliant tool that could very well have been created by a toddler. The tool is called the 5 Whys…and spoiler alert — it could take more than 5 Whys!
Very much like a child would ask their parent the endless “why,” that is how this tool is used.
How to Use the 5 Whys
State what the problem is in writing. Be specific and as detailed as necessary. Visually seeing the problem helps the team focus on the exact issue.
Now ask the first why. When you get an answer, place this underneath the problem.
If the first answer doesn’t get to the root of the problem, go back and ask “why” again.
Keep asking “why” until the answer that is given gets to the root cause of the problem. You’ll know when you find the exact cause of the issue.
The 5 Whys is a filtering system of sorts. Each time you ask “why” it brings you closer to the root of the problem, by filtering out the small inconveniences that are layered at the top, covering a much deeper cause for malaise.
Another benefit of using the 5 Whys Six Sigma tool is that it helps determine other different root causes that manifest within the same basic problem. So by tackling the different root causes, you’ll be able to see how that changes the dynamic of the problem.
*Remember every time you ask why, you’re asking why to the deeper new answer, and not to the original first answer.