Many problems at work are just symptoms of deeper issues. Therefore, to solve a problem effectively, so it doesn’t reoccur, we need to drill down to identify the underlying cause.
Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Whys technique is a simple way to do this.
To use it, you start with the problem you’re facing, and then keep asking “Why?” until you’ve discovered the root cause.
For instance, imagine the IT team in your organization has just rolled out new software for tracking everyone’s expenses. But, no one on your team is using it, even though they’ve all been trained. So, you use the 5 Whys Technique to get to the root of the problem.
You start by asking why people aren’t using the new software. They say that they don’t like it. And, that it’s a pain to use. You then ask WHY they don’t like it. They tell you that the system asks them for information they don’t have. You then ask them WHY they don’t have the necessary information.They say that the system wants their scanned receipts, which is fine. But it also wants them to list exactly what they bought. Sometimes, the receipts don’t list individual items. When this happens, they can’t use the software.
In this case, it took just three WHY questions to get to the root of the problem. The system is asking for information that your people often don’t have. So, they’re avoiding it because it’s not useful.
If you hadn’t used the 5 Whys technique, you might have just got angry with your team, again, for not using the software as they should have.
But now you know what you need to do to resolve the situation. The 5 Whys technique is a simple way to get to the root of a problem. You can find out more about it in the article that accompanies this video.