Have you ever been around a young child who starts what I call the “why game”? They ask a simple question and follow every answer you provide with “why?” until the adult says in frustration, “Cause I said so!” I read somewhere that children do this in all countries and languages because they have found that it keeps adults talking – so they learn about something and learn the language.
One of the tools in “corrective actions” is answering the “5-whys”. It is a wonderful tool to really understand the path that caused the failure.
Here are FIVE ideas that can make this tool even more successful for you…
1. It doesn’t have to be 5. It could be 4, or it could be 10. The number is not the important thing.
2. You ask why until you get to what can be actionable such that the problem is fixed – sustainably
3. If you start with the wrong first why, you will never get to the answer. Sometimes, you have to do the why-path a couple of times to get to a best answer
4. Don’t answer based on your opinion. Rather go ask some questions of the team. Their input will put you on the right path.
5. You should be able to read the whys in order, saying why in-between. If you read them out loud, you can tell easily if they flow correctly.
When you do 5-Whys, do not, EVER decide what your corrective action is and then work backwards. You could be cheating yourself and your team out of the real answer by focusing on a correlated, not causal, action. And WHY would you do that?