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5 Whys Template

Identify the root cause of a problem and prevent recurrence through an effective 5 whys analysis

Published 16 Aug 2021

What is a 5 Whys Template?

A 5 whys template is a powerful tool used for identifying the root cause of a problem following the 5 whys technique. Teams perform 5 whys root cause analysis using a 5 whys template by stating the problem and asking “why” five times until the root cause is discovered. Solutions are then formulated to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

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What is the 5 Whys?

The 5 Whys is a problem-solving technique developed by the founder of Toyota Industries Corporation, Sakichi Toyoda. It is used by the company to detect manufacturing flaws and improve the quality of their products and processes. Using a 5 whys template can help in monitoring the effectiveness of countermeasures applied to previous problems.

5 Whys Analysis Example

In this 5 whys RCA example, you will see how the 5 whys questions are used to unravel an issue and come up with a solution to the problem.

  • Problem: “There is a significant decline in the revenue of our company.” – Why?
    “Most of our stores experience stock loss.” – Why?
    “Data from inventory reports are overlooked.” – Why?
    “The turnaround of reports is slow.” – Why?
    “It is tedious to complete paperwork.” – Why?
  • Root Cause: Inventory audits using pen and paper are inefficient.
  • Solution: Use a digital inspection app to streamline inventory audits and reporting.

How to Perform an Effective 5 Whys Analysis

Using the 5 whys as a root-cause analysis method may be simple, but it won’t be effective if participants overlook its baseline principles. Here are 3 ways team managers can best facilitate an effective 5 whys analysis, especially when implementing kaizen in the workplace:

  • Step #1: Have a clearly defined problem

    Teams often struggle to determine the root cause because they fail to agree on the problem. Team managers should gather their teams and assist in establishing the problem based on current knowledge. It is crucial for 5 whys participants to refrain from blaming people and jumping to conclusions.

    • 5 Whys Analysis Step #1 Example:

      ✖ Our finance department is incompetent.
      Problem: There is a significant decline in the revenue of our company.

  • Step #2: Know when to stop

    5 whys participants should pay attention to the logic of the cause-and-effect relationship. Otherwise, they might keep on coming back to the problem or conclude before they arrive at the root cause. Team managers should train their teams on how to distinguish causes from symptoms. As a rule of thumb, teams should not go further when responses become illogical.

    • 5 Whys Analysis Step #2 Example:

      ✔ The turnaround of reports is slow. – Why?
      ✔ It is tedious to complete paperwork. – Why?
      Root Cause: Inventory audits using pen and paper are inefficient. – Why?
      ✖ The inventory checklist contains numerous details. – Why?
      ✖ We order, store and display a lot of products. – Why?
      ✖ It is necessary for our business. – Why?

  • Step #3: Delegate responsibility to the team

    Teams usually encounter the same problems when they neglect following through on the effectiveness of their solutions. To efficiently monitor the implementation of solutions, team managers should delegate responsibilities to their team members. When each member takes action, teams foster an atmosphere of trust and increase accountability.

    • 5 Whys Analysis Step #3 Example:

      Solution: Use a digital inspection app to streamline inventory audits and reporting.
      Team member 1: Look for digital inspection apps online.
      Team member 2: Invite process manager to the next meeting.
      Team member 3: Remind each team member for the next meeting.

Taking Advantage of a Digital 5 Whys Tool

Team managers should maximize mobile technology to ensure collaboration and accountability when using a 5 whys template. iAuditor by SafetyCulture’s 5 whys templates can help business teams improve problem-solving and brainstorming experiences by:

  • Assign and complete actions
    As soon as your team has drilled down to the root cause of a problem, you can create an action and its assignee will receive a notification containing the task information, due date, and priority. When a team member completes or changes the status of an action, the team manager will also receive a notification. Easily track the implementation of solutions and the performance of your team using your smartphone or tablet.
  • Create and customize your own templates
    Teams can download the featured 5 whys template and customize it to suit their business needs. Using iAuditor’s web platform, team managers can easily build their own templates and include their business logo and other relevant details. Also, you can choose from over 99,000 free templates in SafetyCulture’s public library.
  • View and share reports in real-time
    The moment your team members complete a 5 whys template, a shareable report is instantly generated. Team managers can get the information to the right people with the tap of a finger. For future reference, teams can easily access completed 5 whys templates from their mobile devices. All data is automatically saved and stored in the cloud.
SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Shine Colcol

Shine Colcol is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2019, mostly covering topics about health and safety, environmental, and operations management. She is passionate in empowering teams to build a culture of continuous improvement through well-researched and engaging content. Her experience in cross-industry digital publishing help enrich the quality of information in her articles.

Shine Colcol is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2019, mostly covering topics about health and safety, environmental, and operations management. She is passionate in empowering teams to build a culture of continuous improvement through well-researched and engaging content. Her experience in cross-industry digital publishing help enrich the quality of information in her articles.