5 Whys Overview

Updated: 12/20/2016
5 Whys Overview
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Whys Biz Lesson Plans

What are the 5 Whys

By Nathanael Okhuysen

When something goes wrong, especially in a large organization, there can be an instinct to point fingers and shift blame. This probably isn’t the best way to prevent the problem from arising in the future though. Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motor Company, developed the “5 Whys” process, a type of root cause analysis, to identify and fix problems that arose within the company. It has since been widely adopted as part of lean manufacturing, Kaizen, and Six Sigma methodology.

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Storyboard Description

5 Whys - Root Cause analysis tools

Storyboard Text

  • Articulate the Problem
  • Construct a Causal Chain
  • Identify the Root Cause
  • Deploy Countermeasures
  • Royal Horseshoe Inspection Checklist
  • • Specific and clear • Agreed upon • Understood by everyone
  • • Keep asking: "Why did this effect occur?" • Causes must be necessary and sufficient for effects • Generally, 5 times is enough
  • • Without this cause, there would be no problem • This cause alone caused the problem • A fixable process, not a person
  • • Addresse the root cause, not symptoms • Prevent the problem from ever occurring again • No more complicated or expensive than necessary