5 Whys Analysis: Template & Overview

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  • 0:03 What Is the 5 Whys Analysis?
  • 0:59 The 5 Whys Template
  • 2:43 What Comes After the 5 Whys?
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anthony Aparicio

Tony taught Business and Aeronautics courses for eight years; he holds a Master's degree in Management and is completing a PhD in Organizational Psychology

The 5 Whys system is a common technique used for root cause analysis. This lesson will provide an overview of the 5 Whys analysis and include a template so you can conduct your own analysis.

What Is the 5 Whys Analysis?

The 5 Whys analysis is a system used to determine the root cause of a problem. A root cause is one that goes all the way back to the beginning of how the problem started in the first place. Think of it like a weed in your garden; if you don't pull up the root of a weed, it will just keep growing back. It is important to find out the root cause because then the problem can be fixed and prevent further issues in the future.

Think of it as the difference between treating the causes of a cold and treating the symptoms. One of the first things you notice when you are getting a cold or flu is that you have a sore throat, a feeling of being really tired, and a stuffy nose. You can go to the doctor, and you may be given treatment for your symptoms. The medicine may help you feel a little better, but if you continue to do the same things, you're more likely to get a cold again in the future.

Instead, if you conduct a 5 Whys analysis, you may be able to figure out what can be done to keep from getting a cold or flu in the first place!

The 5 Whys Template

Here is an example of a 5 Whys template. There are many versions out there, and each analyst may develop his or her own in order to meet their specific style or objectives. Let's take a few minutes to go through the scenario we just used a few moments ago and see what we can do using the template if you notice that you have the flu.

Blank 5 Whys Template

Before you begin asking the why questions, you must first be able to clearly state the problem. This may be the most difficult task because if you do not state the problem correctly, it will lead you down a totally different path during your questioning.

In this case, our clearly stated problem is: I have a sore throat.

Now that you have established the problem, you can begin asking your 5 Whys:

  1. Why did this occur? I have a sore throat because mucus is dripping down the back of my throat. Is this a root cause? No.

  2. If no, why did this occur? Because my sinuses are congested. Is this a root cause? No.

  3. If no, why did this occur? Because I contracted the flu virus. Is this a root cause? No.

  4. If no, why did this occur? Because I was exposed to others who had the flu. Is this a root cause? No.

  5. If no, why did this occur? Because I was in a public place where someone else had the virus and passed it on to me. Is this a root cause? Yes.

In this scenario, we went through all of the 5 Whys until we arrived at the root cause. In some cases, you may not need to ask all five or you may need to ask more than five. You will have to keep asking the question and going into more detail until you can answer yes to the question of whether this is a root cause or not.

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