29 September, 2022

How to Use the 5 Whys Method | Video

By Mike Clayton

5 whys, five whys, video

The 5 Whys method is part of the Toyota Production System. And, as my regular viewers know, I am a big fan of raiding Japanese management and production techniques and applying them to strengthen our project management toolkit. So, how do we use the 5 Whys method?

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The 5 Whys Method

The 5 Whys method is part of the Toyota Production System. It was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, and has become an integral part of the Lean philosophy. As my regular viewers know, I am a big fan of raiding Japanese management and production techniques and applying them to strengthen our project management toolkit.

Five Steps for Using the 5 Whys Method

1. Gather your team

Who do you need, to help you solve the problem?

2. Define what the problem is

I cannot over-stress the importance of direct knowledge of the problem – going to the gemba.

3. Find root cause with 5 whys

Ask why the problem happens and record the answer.

If the answer you just got doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem, ask ‘Why’ again and write that answer down.

Keep going until the team agrees that they have found the problem’s root cause. This may take fewer or more than five Whys.

Project example

Here’s the problem. The roll-out of new laptops to the Southern region is running a long way behind schedule.

Why? We planned for 45 a day – the average rate is only 22 per day

Why? we expected 5 full-time technicians from the Southern IT ops team to join the project and we have 2 full-time and two part-time

Why? The regional IT manager has other priorities, so she keeps diverting resources

Why? She is unaware that the Main Board considers this a mission-critical project

Why? She was on holiday at the IT Manager’s meeting where the CEO made this clear

There is nothing special about five. It often gets you to the right place, but always keep going until you self-evidently have reached the root cause.

4. Develop a solution

Now the solution is clear. We need someone very senior – her IT Director boss or maybe even the CEO to speak with the Southern region IT manager, to secure resources to catch up and deliver on time.

5. Take action to implement the solution

There is no change without action.

Some Nice Add-ons to the 5 Whys Method

  • Poka Yoke – mistake proofing
  • Yokoten – best practice sharing

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What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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