Unpredictable problems will always occur in a business.  These are often just symptoms of deeper issues.  

The temptation is to fix the problem quickly and this could seem like a convenient solution.  However, in essence you are just papering over the cracks rather than dealing with the key issues.   This can result in the issue reoccurring at some point in the future, causing wasted time and resources as well as a lot of frustration!

One technique that I have used very successfully over the years, both in my own business as well with my coaching and consulting clients, is the ‘5Why’s technique’ which really helps to delve into the root cause of the problem.

The 5Why’s technique was developed by the Japanese inventor, Sakichi Toyoda and became an integral part of the Lean philosophy.

“The basis of Toyota’s scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem … By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.“ Taiichi Ohno

How The 5Why’s Technique Works

When applying the5Why’s technique, you are looking to get to the essence of the problem and then to fix it. 

This simple but very effective technique can throw up not only the source of the problem that you are looking to fix but in the process, also some unexpected insights.

Additionally, often the source of the problem may be quite unexpected.

Here’s an example of applying the 5Why’s technique:

Problem: We didn’t launch the website on time and therefore did not deliver on the promise.

Why Question1: Why didn’t we launch the website on time? Because the updates were not implemented in time.

Why Question 2: Why were the updates not implemented in time? Because the developers were still working on the new features.

Why Question 3: Why were the developers still working on the new features? One of the developers was new and was not up to speed.

Why 4: Why was the new developer not up to speed? Because he was not trained fully.

Why 5: He was not trained fully. Because the outsourced team manager had a lot of projects to deliver on and thought the new developer could receive minimal training and learn the remainder on the job.

Interestingly, this turned out not to be a technological issue, which is what one might have perhaps expected, in such a scenario – rather it was a process problem.


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