Productivity 26 February 2015

Problem Solving Using the 5 Whys

Using the 5 whys for better problem solving

Problems can occur at any given moment, and when they do, your team needs to act quickly to minimize damage. But finding a quick solution might not be enough, figuring out why it occurred in the first place and getting down to the root of the problem will help mitigate any further problems down the road.

Implementing Taiichi Ohno’s 5 Why’s technique directly after a problem is resolved will help get to the core of the issue. Taiichi Ohono, pioneer of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, believed that finding out why something malfunctioned or why a problem occurred is the only way to find a true solution.

In Ohno’s wise words, “The root cause of any problem is the key to a lasting solution.”

It is always a challenge to figure out why and how a problem occurred. Using the 5 Whys as a problem-solving strategy will help to make this process more manageable. Simply ask your group the question “Why?” five times. That’s right, it is that easy!

How to Run 5 Whys Session

As a starting point, begin with a very general ‘why?’ based on the problem that just occurred. Then, ask a ‘why’ question based on the previous answer to the first question. Repeat this until you have the details you need to help bring the root of the problem into focus. It is best to gather a team right after resolving the problem while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

5 Whys Example

Here’s an example of the 5 Whys process and the solutions they came up with:

  1. Why was the hospital’s new health care app delayed by 4 weeks?
    Answer: Additional complexities were revealed in the testing phase.
  2. Why did additional difficulties come up?
    Answer: The creation phase did not include a solution for a major use case.
  3. Why did the creation phase miss a major use case?
    Answer: The original brainstorming sessions did not include employees whose expertise would have highlighted the use case.
  4. Why were key employees missing from the brainstorming sessions?
    Answer: The beginning brainstorming sessions is managed by a particular department. In this case, additional departments were brought in later in the development process.
  5. Why is this process managed by a particular department?
    Answer: This is how it’s always been done.

Solutions found:

  • Build additional buffer into testing phase.
  • Build additional time into the creation phase to ensure all major use-cases are explored.
  • Ensure key employees from every department are present in all brainstorming sessions throughout all phases.
  • Create a new process that builds on the strengths of all departments and encourages interdepartmental collaboration.

 

Create clickable links in your boards

Using the 5 Whys in Conceptboard

Organize a meeting directly in Conceptboard to discuss the 5 Whys problem-solving steps with your team. Create a board and set it up before sharing it. Arrange your boards section outline to make it easy for all participants to navigate around the board. Make sure to include a section with interactive links so your team will know exactly what do to and where to go as soon as they sign on.

 

Brainstorming in Conceptboard while doing the 5 whys

Brainstorming Sessions

Create individual sections for each member of the team. At first, each user will have their own space to brainstorm through the 5 Whys individually. This helps ensures the different perspectives of the problem get equal time.

Then, create a bigger section next to the individual sections to be able to have a brainstorming session as a team. Depending on the size of your team, you can have smaller timed sessions or have everyone present their ideas one at a time.

While running these brainstorming sessions in the same board, your team can use the moderator mode and live pointers tools. Everyone will see the exact view port and cursor of each user to make it easier to follow the session. Working together in the same board will also ensure all comments and feedback are located in one central place.

 

Mapping out 5 Whys in Conceptboard

Mapping Out the 5 Whys

Mapping out the issue on a board helps everyone better visualize what happened. By painting a better picture of the problem, it helps highlight the next steps towards a better solution. Map out the entire 5 Whys session from start to finish, beginning with the problem and ending with all the proposed solutions. You will have a better understanding of your current status and be able to see if another round of questions is needed.

 

This problem-solving technique is great not only for issues occurring at work, but also for your personal life. No matter the size of the problem or how many people it may involve, mapping out the 5 Whys questions directly after resolving it will always be helpful! Find simple long-lasting solutions to any issue that can come up at unexpected moments.

What problems have you tried solving with the 5 Whys?

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