Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to Main Content All 3M.com Site Map

Five Whys

Unlocking answers by asking questions.

The best ideas are often solutoins 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.


Depth

Breadth

Minutes

Small Group

Large Group

Unlocking answers by asking questions

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.


Five Whys

1.

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



2.

Ask why the problem happens. Have each person in your seeion 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)

Find the products that bring this method to life at post-it.com/collaborate