5 Whys: A Powerful Problem-Solving Tool | SafetyCulture (2024)

What is the 5 Whys Technique?

The 5 Whys is a problem-solving technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationship that leads to a particular problem. The name derives from the method’s frequent utilization of the question “Why?” This repeating question is used to determine the root cause of a problem by repeating why the problem occurs five times. Each answer forms the basis for the next question.

It’s a simple but powerful technique that can help you get to the bottom of things in a thorough manner. It can be used for anything from figuring out why your car keeps breaking down to understanding why a project is behind schedule. It’s a great way to get clarity and find solutions fast.


When it comes to problem-solving, the 5 Whys is one of the simplest techniques around. But don’t let its simplicity fool you—it’s a powerful tool that can help you get to the root of any issue. The beauty of the 5 Whys is that it helps you get to the heart of the issue quickly and easily. And it’s a great tool for troubleshooting problems in your business. Here are some of its benefits:

  • Identifies the root cause of the problem
  • Helps you analyze and understand how one action can cause a chain of problems
  • Gets you to the root cause quickly
  • Does not use any complicated techniques for problem-solving
  • Figures out the relationship between the various root causes
  • Is very effective as a solution for simple problems


The 5 Whys technique was developed in the 1930s by Sakichi Toyoda, a mechanic who was always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of his work. He found that the best way to do this was to ask why his processes were failing. He would ask why five times until he got to the root of the problem. Simple as that!

The 5 whys is now a popular problem-solving technique that’s used in businesses all over the world. It’s simple yet amazingly effective at getting to the root of a problem.

How It Works

Let’s say you’ve got a problem. You know what it is, but you’re not sure how to fix it. This is where the 5 Whys come in.

Here’s how it works: you ask yourself why the problem happened, and then you ask yourself that question again and again until you get to the root of the issue.

The key is to ask why five times. Why did the problem happen? Why did the previous solution fail? And so on. This helps you get down to the root cause of the issue and find a solution that will actually work.

This is a great technique when you’re stuck and don’t know how to move forward. It can help you get clarity and come up with a solution that works for you.

Here’s a perfect example:

Main ProblemThe customer refused to pay for the product.
Why?The customer saw that there was damage to the product when it was opened.
Why?The product got damaged during the delivery.
Why?The product, which is made of glass, fell causing it to crack.
Why?There was no safety packaging for the product.
Why? (Root Cause)It was not properly inspected during the packaging process.

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What are the 5 Whys in Six Sigma?

The 5 whys tools can be used in a variety of situations. It’s used in root cause analysis and Six Sigma to get to the root of a problem.

As we all know, Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology used in various industries to achieve near-perfection in their processes. Within that metholodogy, the 5 whys tool is used specifically for the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) framework.

As a result, it helps Six Sigma practitioners find the root cause of a problem by asking successive “why” questions.

When to Use this Method

This technique can be used when you’re trying to solve a specific problem understand why something went wrong. It can also be used to come up with new ideas or solutions.

The great thing about the 5 Whys is that it helps you get to the root of the problem, and it also encourages creativity and brainstorming. So if you’re facing a challenging problem, this is a technique you should try.


The 5 Whys is a great tool for problem-solving, but it has some limitations. For example, it can be difficult to apply this technique to more complex problems. Aside from this, here are some of the constraints when using this method:

  • This method is not recommended for complex problems as it may not lead to the main cause. This is because the 5 whys will lead to a single source, which may be a problem if there is a need for multiple solutions.
  • It is reliant on the skills of the team facilitator. One wrong question or answer can lead to completely throwing off the questions, thus leading to a wrong root cause.
  • The 5 whys method may not show all possible issues caused by the main problem.

How to Use the 5 Whys Method

Now that you know all about the 5 Whys method, let’s talk about how to use it. So how do you implement the 5 Whys tool? Here’s a quick and easy guide to get you started:

#1. Gather and Assemble a Team.

The first step is to create a team that is familiar with the problem or issue at hand. Familiarity with the issue is essential because this will determine the right questions to ask thus solving the problem correctly.

#2. Identify the Problem.

Next is to identify the problem at hand. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to discuss it with your team by writing down a brief statement or question of what the agreed issue needs to be solved. A team member can right down the statement while leaving enough space for why questions.

#3. Ask the 5 Whys.

Now is the time to ask the first why. The first question must pertain to why the problem occurred. The question must be based on facts and related to the issue. Keep going until you reach the root cause of the problem.

#4. Brainstorm Solutions to the Root Cause.

Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can start brainstorming solutions. It’s important to remember that not every solution will work, but the goal is to find a solution that will prevent the problem from happening again.

#5. Test the Solution.

So how do you know if the solution is effective? You need to test it. Modify the solution as needed and repeat the test until you’re satisfied that it’s working.

5 Whys: A Powerful Problem-Solving Tool | SafetyCulture (2024)


5 Whys: A Powerful Problem-Solving Tool | SafetyCulture? ›

A 5 whys template is a powerful tool used for identifying the root cause of a problem following the 5 whys technique. Teams perform 5 whys root cause analysis using a 5 whys template by stating the problem and asking “why” five times until the root cause is discovered.

What is the 5 Whys problem-solving tool? ›

The Five Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and drilling down by asking: "Why?" or "What caused this problem?" While you want clear and concise answers, you want to avoid answers that are too simple and overlook important details.

What is the 5w problem-solving tool? ›

The Five Ws and one H tool is easy to use. It can be used for lots of things including planning action and solving problems. The five Ws stand for the questions who, what, where, when and why, and the H stands for how.

What is the 5 Why Qi tool? ›

The 5 Whys is a simple approach to help a team identify underlying reasons for a problem. What is it? By repeatedly asking the question 'Why?' (use five as a rule of thumb), you can peel away the layers of an issue, just like the layers of an onion, which can lead you to the different root causes of a problem.

How is the 5 Whys method effective in determining the impact of a problem? ›

The five whys method is a technique for analyzing problems within an organization. It involves identifying a problem and asking "why?" until you determine the main cause of the issue. Using the five whys as the framework, teams can investigate why a problem occurred through in-depth questioning and analysis.

How do you use 5 Whys effectively? ›

Start with a problem and ask why it is occurring. Make sure that your answer is grounded in fact, and then ask the question again. Continue the process until you reach the root cause of the problem, and you can identify a counter-measure that will prevent it from recurring.

What is a 5 why analysis example? ›

Example of applying the 5 Whys

Answer: The project failed due to inadequate planning and lack of resources. 2. Why was there inadequate planning? Answer: The project team did not have a clear understanding of the scope of the project and did not allocate enough time and resources to complete it.

What are the 5 M's of problem-solving? ›

What does 5M stand for in the 5M method? Material, Medium, Methods, Machine and Manpower are the five main categories of root causes to be analyzed to solve a problem, and the Klaxoon template adds Management to this list. This means you will examine six key criteria that can cause problems.

Is 5 why a problem-solving method? ›

Five whys (5 whys) is a problem-solving method that explores the underlying cause-and-effect of particular problems. The primary goal is to determine the root cause of a defect or a problem by successively asking the question “Why?”.

What is 5W in problem-solving? ›

It helps you to understand a problem better and find the root cause of it. 5W is an acronym for What, Where, When, Why, and Who, while the letter H stands for How. 5W1H is also known as the Kipling Method in honor of Rudyard Kipling, the British author and poet who first devised this method.

What is the 5 why rule? ›

The 5 Whys Problem Solving technique is a simple process to follow to solve any problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five times is a good rule of thumb), to peel away the layers of symptoms that can lead to the root cause of a problem. This strategy relates to the principle of systematic problem solving.

What are the 5 whys in Six Sigma? ›

Five Whys, sometimes written as "5 Whys," is a guided team exercise for identifying the root cause of a problem. Five Whys is used in the "analyze" phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) methodology.

What is the 5 Whys diagram? ›

The 5 Whys and fishbone diagrams can be used on their own or as a follow-up to techniques like the “last 10 patients” chart audit or fall-out analysis. The 5 Whys involves asking and answering the question "Why?" five times or as many times as it takes to get to the "root cause" or end of the causal chain.

Why do people criticize the 5 Whys method? ›

As per the blog on ARMS Reliability there are following resons for the criticism of Five Whys method: Tendency for investigators to stop at symptoms rather than going on to lower-level root causes. Inability to go beyond the investigator's current knowledge – cannot find causes that they do not already know.

What is the 5 Whys framework? ›

Five whys helps in identifying the root cause of a problem by determining the relationship between different root causes of a problem. It can also be used to understand the reasons for a positive outcome or goal. Use the five why technique to ensure you have identified the actual causes of a problem.

What are the key benefits of the 5 Whys technique? ›

By identifying and addressing root causes, the 5 Whys technique helps improve quality control processes. It eliminates the recurrence of problems and reduces defects, leading to higher quality products and services.

What is the 5 Whys problem? ›

Not only are users of '5 whys' limited to one root cause per causal pathway, but they are also limited to selecting only the most distal cause (conventionally, the fifth 'why'). There is, however, no logical reason to assume that this is always the most effective or most efficient target for intervention.

What is the 5 Whys system thinking method? ›

The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question "why?" five times, each time directing the current "why" to the answer of the previous "why".

What is the 5 Whys challenge? ›

It's just as it sounds: A discussion of the unexpected event or challenge that follows one train of thought to its logical conclusion by asking “Why?” five times to get to the root of what happened.

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