1. Five Whys

Five Whys

Unlocking answers by asking questions.

  • The best ideas are often solutions to a bigger problem. The Five Whys method delves into the truths of a situation to unlock responses that can transform challenges into creative opportunities.

    Whether you're in a group or simply brainstorming by yourself, The Five Whys approach is a simple and effective way to explore the root cause of a problem and develop relevant solutions.

  • Breadth
  • 30 Min
    30 Min
  • Small Group
    Small Group
  • 1

    Write down the problem, describing it in simple terms. This will help you and your team focus on the task at hand.


    Write down the problem

  • 2

    Ask why the problem happens. Have each person in your session capture his/her why on a Post-it® Note.


    Have each person in your session capture his/her why on a Post-it® Note

  • 3

    Share and group which why's are similar and/or worthy of deeper consideration.

  • 4

    Examine your selections. Could there be another cause beneath it that is contributing to the problem? If so, ask "why?" again and record your answer.

  • 5

    Continue these steps until the root problem is identified. We suggest doing the exercise at least five times but your situation may call for more or less.

  • Here's an example of the Five Whys in action:

    The vehicle will not start. (The problem)
    1) Why? - The battery is dead. (First why)
    2) Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (Second why)
    3) Why? - The alternator belt is broken. (Third why)
    4) Why? - The alternator belt was beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (Fourth why)
    5) Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Fifth why, a root cause)

collaboration brainstorm depth 30_minutes small_group notes easel_pad big_pads

    FAQs Contact Us Call Us: 800-395-1223 Call Us: 800-395-1223
    Other 3M Sites:
    Follow Post-it® Brand
    Post-it Brand is a trademark of 3M.