Get to the root of any problem
Use the 5 whys analysis template to drill down on a problem and discover the root cause of a problem. The template includes three different spaces to write a problem statement and identify the root cause of each one.
The 5 whys technique involves asking "why" questions to identify the root cause of a problem or issue. By asking "why" 5 times for each following answer, the underlying cause of the problem can be uncovered.
Start by identifying a broad problem that you need to solve and write that at the top. Then ask “Why” and write your answer as a statement. Then ask “Why” of the second statement and write down your answer. Repeat that three more times to identify your root cause.
Bring together a team with which to conduct the workshop. A cross-functional team may offer more insight into potential issues, but this depends on the type of problem.
The problem should be as broad as possible, so you can hone in on the elements of what’s causing it as well as the root cause.
Try phrasing the problem as a statement rather than a question, so you can ask yourself, “Why?” in the space below.
Explore why the core problem is occurring with your group. Once you have identified a root cause, ask “why” again and explore that reason. Do this three more times, exploring each subsequent reason.
Asking “why” five times is the standard for the 5 Whys technique, but you may have to go through several more rounds.
Now that you have some root causes, you can explore with your collaborators what the right course of action should be to resolve the problem.
Take your solution and carry out a plan to solve your root problem. Don’t forget to follow up with your collaborators and stakeholders so you can share information and prevent similar problems from happening again in the future.
In this example, your problem statement is: customer service agents aren’t able to answer all incoming calls throughout the day. The first “Why?” is about the problem statement. Your answer might be, “Because there aren’t enough agents to answer calls.” The second “Why” is asking, “Why are there not enough agents?” This goes on until you’ve asked “Why” five successive times.
Let’s look at this example as a completed exercise:
Problem: Your customer service agents aren’t able to answer all incoming calls throughout the day.
Why? There aren’t enough agents to answer the volume of calls.
Why? We are experiencing more calls than we forecasted, and so we’re not properly staffed.
Why? We forecasted inaccurately.
Why? We didn’t accurately anticipate the volume of calls regarding issues with a new product release.
Why? We didn’t proactively answer our customers’ possible questions about our new product.
A five whys analysis helps you see individual elements that could be contributing to the problem you’re having and how those elements eventually lead to a root cause. The 5 Whys Template aims to help users avoid making assumptions about a problem. The goal is to understand exactly what’s causing the problem, so you can eliminate those barriers and begin to uncover potential solutions.