The 5 Whys Explained - Root Cause Analysis

Sharing buttons:

hello and welcome to today's lesson

where we're looking after five why's

which is a technique that can help you

find the root cause of a problem now

it's a fact of life

and business that sometimes things go


software fails equipment breaks

communication is misunderstood and the

master plan you spent the last month

putting together falls apart after just

five minutes now to prevent these types

of problems from recurring you usually

need more than just a quick fix so the

five why's can be a useful tool in

helping you to get to the root cause of

what went wrong and by understanding the

root cause of the problem you can solve

it in such a way that it doesn't we

occur now the technique works by asking

why five times to find the root cause of

your problem and it was originally

developed by Toyota in the 1930s so

let's take a look at an example suppose

that your company's website is down now

you obviously need to get the site back

up and running ASAP so that's just what

you have to do you can't just leave it

there when you go away to conduct your

five why's you have to address that as a

priority but immediately after the site

is back up and running you might then

find it useful to use the five whys

technique to ensure that all the causes

of the problem are addressed so that it

doesn't happen again so let's take a

look and what might have caused your

website to go down so why did the

website go down well it ran out of

memory why did it run out of memory well

because it was incorrectly configured

and why was that well because the site

administrator made a mistake and why did

they make that mistake

well because development hadn't provided

adequate instructions and why was that

well it was because they assumed it was

obvious how to do to work now in our

example what appears at first to be a

technical problem ends up being a human

problem someone made a mistake in this

case the development team they made an

assumption that the work was obvious

now so far you might be thinking that

this technique technique is so basic and

simple that it doesn't really require an

entire video to explain it well it's

actually the next step where the real

power of the five whys is revealed and

in this step you need to take corrective

action and corrective action is called

countermeasures in the model and you

take that corrective action at every

level of the five why's so for example

the first cause was that the website ran

out of memory so you might take the

countermeasure get the site up and

running again immediately the second

cause was incorrect configuration so

here our countermeasure is to create a

standard operation procedure to verify

configuration before every update third

answer or cause was the site admin made

a mistake so here our countermeasure

might be make sure the site admin knows

how to run the new verification test the

fourth cause was the development team

hadn't provided adequate instruction and

here our countermeasure might be to

train the development team to provide

sufficient instructions and our final

cause our root cause was they made the

assumption it was obvious and here our

countermeasure might be to have a word

with the development team manager to

ensure they speak to their team about

the importance of being precise no

matter how obvious something may seem

now so the real key point here in this

example is that we're addressing the

causes of the problem at every level so

it doesn't happen again so based on that

the diagram you see here more adequately

reflects the five why's we're buying

we're deploying countermeasures at every

level of our analysis of why the problem

occurred now over time as you fix

problems in this way you will build more

robust processes and systems and that

should result in fewer problems

happening in the first place now another

important thing to note from this

example is that often what our first

glance appears to be a technical

transpires to be a human problem or a

process problem at its root and the

final thing to be aware of here is that

asking why five times is simply a rule

of thumb you may have to ask why just

three times or you might need to ask it

10 times to get to the real root of the

problem so if you want to run your own

five why's meeting then these are the

steps you should follow so step one

organize your meeting so arrange for

everyone to get together who might be

affected by the problem or have input

into its solution now if you're not

leading the session yourself then make

sure that somebody is it's the session

leaders responsibility to lead the

meeting and the process and assign

people as sign people as being

responsible for countermeasures step two

is to define the problem statement so at

the start of the meeting define the

problem you're trying to solve you might

want to write it on a whiteboard if you

can step three asks the first why so ask

your assemble team why the problem is

occurring now if there's more than one

reason given for the problem then ask

your team to vote on the most likely

cause and write their answer next to

your first why on the whiteboard step

four is to ask why four more times and

each time you do that use the previous

answer to base your next question on and

once you've done this you'll have five

reasons one for each why question

finally Step five is to determine your

countermeasures to agree what

countermeasures you will take to address

each of your five reasons that are now

on the whiteboard step six is important

it's in sign responsibilities so for

each countermeasure agree who is

responsible for it and how they will

measure the success of that came to

measure step seven is to monitor

progress so agree how progress will be

monitored and usually that's going to

involve a follow-up session that could

be in a few hours a few days or even a

few weeks and then finally step eight

close the meeting now that you've

determined all the causes of your prob

including the roof cause you've

determined your countermeasures and how

you'll monitor progress it's time to

bring a meeting to a close so there are

a number of advantages and disadvantages

associated with the five why's technique

in terms of advantages and it allows you

to identify the cause of your problem

not just its symptoms it's simple and

it's easy to use and it helps you avoid

taking immediate action without

considering if you've identified the

real root cause of your problem in terms

of disadvantages then different people

may get different answers as to the

cause of the exact same problem and that

raises the question about the

reliability of the technique it's only

as good as the knowledge and experience

of the people in the room using it and

finally you may not dive deep enough to

uncover the actual root cause of the

problem entirely so in summary to

prevent some problems from recurring you

need more than just a quick fix now the

five why's is a useful technique that

can help you analyze and fix problems so

that they are eliminated for good the

technique works by asking why five times

and for each answer you discover you

deploy countermeasures to stop it

happening again continue asking why

until you've recovered and addressed the

root cause of the problem and if you

over time solve problems in this way

then eventually you should begin to okay

encounter less and less problems in

general so that's it for this lesson

really hope you enjoyed it and I look

forward to speaking to you again soon