Defining the Problem and Finding the Root Cause - Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed the problem statement tool. In this post, we'll review another tool, The 2nd tool, 5 Whys, helps you get to the real root cause of a problem quickly.

Do you remember being a child, where you used to annoy your parents by asking “why” again and again? You can apply this same concept in your business to find the root cause of broken processes by asking “Why” at least 5 times.

Here’s an example:

Problem Statement: Your car stopped running 1 day/week for the last 3 weeks when you’re on your way home from work.

1.  Why did your car stop?

  • It ran out of gas.

2.  Why did it run out of gas?

  • I didn’t have any money to buy gas.

3.  Why didn’t you have any money?

  • I worked only 4 days/week for the last 3 weeks.

4. Why did you work 4 days each week?

  • I had to stay home with my child.

 5Why did you have to stay home with your child?

  •  My baby sitter was sick & I didn’t have a back-up.

6. Why didn’t you have a back-up?

In your business, start with the first task on your flowchart, decide what could go wrong there, and then ask your 5 Whys to get to the root cause. Then continue to the next task.

Asking “why” 5 times is a very simple method to use to drill down through the layers of symptoms to get to the root cause.