This guide will discuss the 5W1H method: its definition, origin, and elements. Learn how to integrate it into your business practices with a step-by-step guide.
Published 29 Jul 2022
The 5W1H is a questioning approach and a problem-solving method that aims to view ideas from various perspectives with the goal to gain an in-depth understanding of a specific situation. It is commonly utilized as a continuous process-improvement method and accomplished by answering all the basic elements within a problem which are what, who, where, when, why, and how.
The 5W1H, also known as the Kipling method—is a set of questions used by Rudyard Kipling to extensively answer existing questions and trigger ideas that could contribute to the resolution of a problem. The concept was eventually incorporated into business practices to eliminate mistakes, increase efficiency, and streamline processes.
The Kipling method is similar to other process improvement methods such as the root cause analysis, the 5S Lean, and the PDCA cycle.
The elements included in the 5W1H method allows for a comprehensive analysis of the presented situation and enables you to spot opportunities for improvement. Answering the 5Ws and 1H questions, and being as detailed as possible, helps identify potential solutions that could be implemented and observed for their effectiveness.
They can be placed in different order but you should ensure that the following 5Ws and 1H questions are included:
The what element should clearly describe the situation, the specific problem, or basically explain the purpose of the method usage. If possible, it should also state the overall goal for implementing the solution that would be identified.
Who refers to the specific people or group relevant to the issue or the situation. It should include the person who discovered the problem, who can possibly solve it, and who will be responsible for implementing the possible solution.
The where element should contain the exact location or position of the recognized issue. It can be a place, facility, or even a certain process where the solution is to be implemented.
When should include all the components of the situation pertaining to anything related to dates. It should state the timeline, deadline, duration, or any other details that could help in the resolution of the problem.
Although each of them are vital in achieving an effective questioning approach, the why is probably one of the most important elements of the 5W1H method. It explains in detail the reason and objectives behind the need for action or why there’s a need to do the 5W1H method in the first place. This last W is also often asked five times to discover the root cause of the situation and to prevent it from recurring. This approach is called the 5 Whys analysis.
How, as the last element of the method, specifies the steps on how the identified plan/s should be carried out. It should also include all the resources, tools, methods, means, and even the expenditure needed for the endeavor to be effective.
To summarize, asking these questions enables those who will use the 5W1H method to get to the bottom of things by systematically structuring thoughts and emphasizing important information. Consequently, this can help recognize potential issues and possible solutions related to the scenario.
The 5W1H and 5 Whys problem-solving methods can be used interchangeably or together. These methods both aim to recognize existing problems and address them by offering effective solutions once the root causes are identified.
Their main difference, however, is that while the method of 5W1H asks other vital details like what, who, when, where, and how, along with why, 5 Whys progressively drills down on the reasons behind the situation until the main cause is identified by asking “why” 5 times.
If a scenario is too complex that it calls for a more comprehensive analysis, using these two together offers a higher chance in successfully achieving clarity or solution to a problem.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a digital auditing tool that businesses and team managers can use in applying the 5W1H approach. With iAuditor, you can seamlessly collaborate with your team in identifying important questions and in recognizing possible solutions. If needed, you can even provide access to people outside your organization using our Free Seats feature by modifying access levels accordingly. Perform an effective 5W1H analysis in iAuditor by following these steps:
Download and use our existing template that includes all the basic components of the 5W1H method. You can also further customize it on your own, or even create a new template based on your business specifics and project needs.
State important information such as your company name, project name, who initiated the method use, and the date it was created.
As previously mentioned, this is the part where you can enumerate all the 5W1H questions relevant to your problem or situation before answering them as detailed as possible. If other team members or relevant stakeholders are more knowledgeable on a particular subject, you can share the document and allow them to directly edit and put their own questions or answers on the file.
As the 5W1H requires for you to be as detailed as possible, ensure a comprehensive method usage by effortlessly adding as many queries per section as you see fit.
Specify a solution to the problem and further ensure its effectiveness by creating corrective actions or reporting them as issues. Incorporate a priority level to each one (i.e., high, medium, low), to highlight importance and communicate urgency.
Complete the analysis by adding other relevant recommendations and attaching a digital signature. You can also export the analysis to Word, Excel, or PDF before sharing it with your team and other relevant stakeholders.
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Project managers, team managers, and others can use this template to apply the 5W1H process-improvement method into their business practices. Use this template in iAuditor to be able to do the following:
Other related templates you might find useful:
Jaydee Reyes is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her six-year experience in the field of data research and media monitoring adds expertise and quality to her work. She is also a champion of leveraging technology to promote a culture of safety in workplaces around the world. As a content specialist, she aims to help companies adapt to digital changes through interesting and informational articles.
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