Keep Asking Why

When to Use
Look: Construct a dialog that interrogates the logic of a position, allowing you the means for deconstructing group perceptions, surface underlying assumptions and issues.

How to Use It?

  1. Convene a group of willing participants;

  2. Write the perceived problem on flipchart paper for all participants to see;

  3. Ask participants why the problem exists;

  4. Repeat by asking “why” until a plausible root cause surfaces

  5. Make sure there is shared understanding regarding what the “root” cause is, and potential resolutions for this problem.

5-whys is a flexible tool that can be used with a number of different audiences including large plenary discussions, or small-break-out groups. The tool is best used when participants have detailed knowledge regarding a particular issue or problem.

5-whys is usually completed in a short period of time, approximately 30 minutes-1 hour.

Components are being delivered late to our customers.

  • Why 1
    Why were we unable to meet the agreed-upon timeline or schedule for delivery? The job took much longer than we thought it would.

  • Why 2
    Why did it take so much longer? Because we under estimated the complexity of the job.

  • Why 3
    Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and did not list the individual stages needed to complete the project.

  • Why 4
    Why didn't we do this? Because we were running behind on other projects.

  • Why 5 and Root Cause
    Why are we running behind on other projects? We do not allow enough manufacturing/lead time when issuing quotations to our clients.


Louie C.K.: Daughter Asking Why

5 Whys Guide and Template

5 Whys: Getting to the Root Cause of a Problem

5 Whys: Harvard Business Review

Better Evaluation: The Five-Whys Method