Get to the root of any problem
A 5 Whys Analysis is a problem-solving exercise that teams can use when they need to identify the root cause of a problem.
It’s called a 5 Whys Analysis because you ask “Why?” five times to understand the root issue of a problem. You’re not asking "Why?" five times about the initial problem; instead, you ask “Why?” about each sequential statement.
This method helps you find ways to solve broader problems and find a causal relationship between your root problem and downstream effects. For instance, maybe your customer service agents aren’t able to answer 100% of the incoming calls throughout the day. Use the 5 Whys process to discover the root cause and work toward a solution.
Bring together a team with which to conduct the workshop. A cross-functional team may offer more insight as to 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 5 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.
MURAL’s 5 Whys Worksheet Template helps you understand the root cause of workplace issues, so you can come up with more effective solutions.
MURAL’s 5 Whys Worksheet is useful for teams because you can share the template with anyone who needs access. If resolving the problem is a collaborative effort across multiple departments, MURAL makes it easy for everyone to work together to identify the root cause, whether in real time, or asynchronously.
Sometimes, the root cause of one problem ends up being the start of a new one. For example, in our call center example, our root cause was, “We didn’t proactively answer our customer’s possible questions about our new product.” Let’s say that now you need to identify the root cause of why you didn’t proactively answer questions. You can start a new column on the same worksheet. This makes it easier to track your solutions for the same – or related – problems.