Have you ever had a problem or issue within your business, that just keeps coming back? It may be a system or procedure issue, or maybe even HR related. All you know is that it’s a pain, it keeps coming back and ‘quick fixes’ are just that, quick and temporary.
To un-cover the root cause of a problem within a business we need to dig deeper. The common answer is to just resolve there and then, often with a stubborn re-active quick fix. These fixes as mentioned are in-efficient and not the long-term answer.
Most problems can be resolved with 5 Whys
The 5 Whys method was created by the founder of Toyota in the 1930’s, and it become heavily used from the 1970’s. Toyota and many other large organisations still use this technique today for problem solving.
When should I use the 5 Whys method?
The technique is useful for quality improvements & testing, problem solving and root cause investigations.
How does the 5 Whys method work?
For the 5 Whys to be effective, you need to follow the below steps:
1) TEAM – Put together a team that will tackle the problem. Someone needs to be assigned the role as facilitator.
2) PROBLEM – What’s the problem? Define the problem in a statement, write it down and ensure the entire team are on the same page.
3) WHY – The facilitator needs to ask the first Why – Ensure ‘Why’ is used when asking what the problem is and why the problem is recurring.
4) WHY x4 – The facilitator needs to then continue and ask WHY, 4 more times. Each diving into the answer of each why. Usually getting x5 Whys deep will uncover the majority of causes.
5) RESOLVE – Now you have a better understanding of the root cause, the team can discuss and implement a long-term solution.
6) MEASURE – Measure progress of the solution, to ensure it has in fact resolved the issue. If another problem is caused, apply the 5 WHY method to that as well and continue the steps.
Example of the 5 WHYS method in action from TOYOTA
1) “Why did the robot stop?”
The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.
2) “Why is the circuit overloaded?”
There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.
3) “Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?”
The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.
4) “Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?”
The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.
5) “Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?”
Because there is no filter on the pump.
For more information on how TOYOTA use the method click here