Do you need to find the cause for a work or personal problem?

This is a method to help determine the root cause of a problem by repeating the question "Why?"

Not all problems have one cause. To uncover root causes, we ask different questions.

Trust yourself. If you are working with other people, trust each other.

You might learn something new!

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How to use 5 WHYs

The following video explains the idea and steps behind this technique.

Where do I start?

  • Form a team.

  • Define the problem.

  • Ask why.

  • Take action.


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This diagram shows cause and effect.

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Sometimes there is more than one cause.

Ask Why? until the root cause is determined. At the end, you can reverse the order of your reasons, making “therefore” statements.

Jefferson Memorial Example

Sometimes you only need to ask 3 WHYs to identify a root cause; sometimes you need to ask more in your analysis.

This video tells the story of why stone was deteriorating on an American memorial. The cause was a surprise!

Tips and Guidance

  • Go step by step.

  • Write down the causes.

  • Be specific, with facts.

  • Focus on problems, not people.

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What should you NOT do when asking 5 WHYs?

Take Action

The more you practice the 5 WHYs technique, the easier it will become. Just remember: don't ask Why too many times or you might lose focus.

Photo by Nick de Partee on Unsplash

By asking 5 WHYs, you may discover that your solution is not addressing the real issue you need to fix.

The next time you have trouble solving a problem, don't jump to conclusions - use the 5 WHYs!


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