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The Power of the Five Whys

Getting to the Root Cause!

Engineers often use many methodologies, tools and techniques to understand technical problems or even introduce design improvements; however, one particular process has always worked well for Firney. The “Power of the Five Whys” is a simple yet effective mechanism that can uncover a problem’s root cause by asking why five times. This process allows our team to drill down to the heart of the matter and find solutions to prevent future issues before delving into a deep technical investigation.

This simple yet powerful tool can help uncover the underlying issue quickly and effectively. So how does it work? The five whys are all about asking successive why questions until you get to the heart of the matter.

For example, let’s say we didn’t send the newsletter for the latest software updates on time:

Q: Why was the newsletter not sent on time?

A: Because updates were not implemented before the deadline.

Q: Why couldn’t the changes be deployed sooner?

A: Because the developers were still in the process of constructing the new features.

Q: Why were developers still constructing additional features?

A: One of the new developers lacked procedural knowledge.

Q: Why did the new developer lack knowledge of all procedures?

A: He was not well trained.

Q: Why was he not adequately trained?

A: The CTO feels that new staff do not require extensive training and should learn on the job.

The Conclusion

The initial problem’s root cause proved entirely unexpected, as is evident.

Moreover, it was obvious that the issue was not tech-related but procedural. This is frequent because we often overlook the human dimension in favour of the technical aspect of a problem.

This is why the 5 Whys analysis intends to explore a problem in depth until the underlying reason is revealed.

Remember that “5” is simply a number. Ask “Why” as frequently as necessary to finish the process and take the required steps.