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Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

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Teams are consistently faced with any number of opportunities for improvement. To understand where to focus, it is important to understand the initial conditions of the situation or target of improvement. 5 Whys is one strategy to help teams gain clarity about an issue to support action for improvement. Here's how...


The 5 Whys process is simple. To determine root cause or to get a deeper understanding of a problem, you simply ask why at least five times. As you probe deeper into root cause, you engage higher order thinking skills to find meaning. This process will often challenge your understanding of the problem or situation. This is important for teams to be able to fully address a problem or analyze a potential solution to a problem.


A 5 Whys conversation with an elementary student might look like this:

WHY #1: Why is it important to be in school?

“Because I want a good job.”

WHY #2: Why do you want a good job?

“Because I want to support myself and help my Mom.”

WHY #3: Why is it important to help your Mom?

“Because she helps me.”

WHY #4: Why does she help you?

“Because she loves me.”

WHY #5: Why does she love you?

“Because it makes me happy and it makes her happy. So in other words, we should stay in school so that we can get a good job, support ourselves and help our Mom.”


Empower People to Solve Problems

Good processes arise when the workforce is empowered to identify and solve problems to achieve excellence. Process improvement reinforces and accelerates a culture of performance excellence. Encourage people to be problem solvers by bringing a solution with every problem.

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