Everything You Need to Know about 5 Whys
The basic principle behind the Five Whys is that you continue the question of “Why?” until you come to the Root Cause. It’s reminiscent of the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly, only repeated in reverse.
Be sure to click on this video if you want to see why I haven’t given up my engineering career to become a singer! Ha!
VIDEO, 5 Whys: Everything You Need to Know
If you have kids, you’re probably groaning in agony just thinking of this song about the Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly. But for those of you who aren’t familiar, I’ll sum up the gist of it for you now!
“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die!”
Unfortunately, she proceeds to do exactly that by the end of the song. But why?! Why did she die?! You must be wondering. Well, she did swallow a horse – because it seemed to be the only logical way to catch a cow. Which she was forced to swallow in order to catch the goat, which was to catch the dog, cat, bird, and spider which was ultimately to catch the fly. So, though we just asked, “Why, God, why?!” not 5, but 9 times…we STILL don’t have an answer. No root cause. NOBODY KNOWS WHY SHE SWALLOWED THE FLY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
That was a long analogy. But there is a point coming next!
Find the Fly before it kills the Old Lady!
Do you want to know how many times I have actually asked the 5 Whys in my extensive professional experience? This may shock you – it’s Zero. Zilch. Nada. Wait, I know what you’re thinking! I just made you sit through that tragically unforgettable song and you want to know why! Well, I’ll tell you. Asking why five times may or may not get you where you need to be – that much bunny trailing can sometimes just lead to a dead end. So what we want you to learn is how to ask the most accurate questions to lead you to Root Cause quickly.
“Why you’re really here is to learn how to ask the best questions to find the root cause Lightning Fast.” Click To Tweet
Five Whys IS a good way to start helping you see your problems in a different light. Sometimes I even encourage people to ask these questions to get them thinking outside their box. There are a couple other effective ways of tackling your tunnel vision issues as well, for instance, using a Fishbone Diagram or Cause and Effect Diagram. Leave a comment below if you’d like to hear my experience with those at a later date.
5 Whys or Contrast?
I’ve never needed to use the 5 Whys method myself for the following reason. Lightning Fast Problem Solving comes to the point quicker by simply finding contrast. If someone hands me a project they’ve been working on, having already applied the 5 Whys, I’m happy to look into it! I can shed light on the subject I have no prior knowledge of because professional problem solving is what I do. It’s actually helpful not to be an expert in the field and to have no previous knowledge of the problem.“Lightning Problem Solving methods are so powerful that it actually helps when the problem solver has no previous knowledge about the problem!” Click To Tweet
But Tom, where do I look for Contrast?
In order to find contrast, you can utilize a Question Diagram like the one shown in my video. (Which you should definitely watch now if you haven’t already since it showcases an excellent way to track down root cause.) This diagram can help weed out those pesky problem causers like crack, leaks, and gaps. Another great resource on this topic is my video Root Cause versus Solution – be sure to check it out as well! Once you have drawn a Question Diagram, you work toward solving the problem by comparing the good outcomes with the bad ones.
Question for YOU!
How about you? Have you ever solved a problem quickly using the Five Whys method? I would love to hear about it! Leave me a comment in the section below.
I hope my “Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly” analogy was helpful at least in reminding you of a quicker way to come up with Root Cause. Especially when you need a solution yesterday! So be on the lookout for contrast! And let us know if this video has helped you by clicking “Like.” Ever run into a snag and just can’t seem to come up with a viable solution? We’re here for you! Get in touch with me by phone or email to get Lightning Problem Solving on the case. Until next time, happy problem-solving! (And look out for flies!)