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5 Whys Template

Use this free 5 whys template to analyse why something went wrong. It will help you understand the root cause of any problem in order to solve it effectively. We also offer a free online 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis Creator.

the 5 whys template

There is always a root cause whenever something goes wrong, but it’s not always apparent. Fortunately, there is a simple way to look at the issue and ask the right questions to get to the heart of the problem so you can resolve it. Using the the 5 why method, you can quickly and effectively narrow down the root cause, so you know what steps to take next. This system is so effective you can use it for any problem because it forces you to look only at the cause and effect that led to the situation.

What are the 5 Whys

The 5 Whys is a problem-solving technique that is often used in root cause analysis (RCA). The 5 Whys is a simple and iterative process that involves asking “Why?” five times to uncover the root cause of a problem or issue.

In the context of RCA, the 5 Whys can help you identify the underlying factors that contribute to a problem or issue. By asking “Why?” repeatedly, you can dig deeper into the problem and uncover its root causes. This information can then be used to develop a solution that addresses the root cause, rather than just treating the symptoms.

The 5 Whys is a useful tool for RCA because it is straightforward and easy to use, and it can help you quickly identify the root cause of a problem. Additionally, it encourages you to think critically and creatively about the problem, which can lead to new insights and ideas for solving it.

The 5 Whys are not five different questions. Initially pioneered by Sakichi Toyoda, who believed that “by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem, as well as its solution, becomes clear.” The 5 Whys is a simple repeat of the question, “Why?” This surprisingly simple method is incredibly effective as a problem-solving tool.

For example, let’s say your home has a generator, and the power won’t come on. First, you ask why the power didn’t come on. Investigate the cause. Where did the power stop flowing? For this example, we’ll say an outdoor wire was severed. You then ask why the wire was severed. Let’s assume some outdoor tools stacked nearby fell on it and cut the line. Why did the tools fall? In this case, the tools fell because of the wind. We don’t need to ask why wind exists; instead, we ask why the tools were stacked out by that electric line in the wind. We’ll say that a teenager who did yardwork for you put them there. Why did they put the tools there? Perhaps you forgot to tell them where to put tools away, or maybe you need more storage space. Either way, you now know what happened, what needs fixing, and how to prevent it from happening again. You can use this 5 why analysis to uncover the root cause of nearly any problem you encounter.

How are the 5 Whys Used

The 5 Whys are used in conjunction with the 5 Hows to determine the cause of a problem and then figure out the steps to resolve it. To apply this method, you ask the question “why” five times in a row. It shouldn’t take any more than that to come to a conclusion about how the causes of a problem contributed. Doing this will allow you to develop a quick and complete resolution. It’s essential to make sure you choose the right questions, as in the example above, where we asked why the tools were in the wind rather than a question about the wind itself. It doesn’t matter that wind exists, and you cannot stop the wind, so that wouldn’t be relevant or helpful.

Any ‘why’ that doesn’t actively contribute to a solution should be discarded. If you’re unsure if the ‘why’ is valid, ask how you would fix it. Even if you don’t currently possess the tools, skills, or other things you need to fix it, ask yourself if there is a way to solve the problem. You can’t change the fact that the wind blows, but you can provide shelter that blocks the wind or relocate things, so it’s a nonissue. Each why should lead to another why until you’ve uncovered all the critical facts.

Using Root Cause Analysis to Change Habits

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a problem-solving method that aims to identify the underlying factors that contribute to a problem or issue. By performing RCA on your habits, you can gain a deeper understanding of the causes of your habit, which can help you determine the most effective strategies for changing it.

  • For example, if you have a habit of procrastinating on your work, RCA might reveal that the root cause of the habit is a lack of motivation, stress, or a lack of clear goals. With this information, you can take steps to address these underlying issues, such as setting clear, achievable goals, managing stress, or finding ways to increase your motivation.
  • For example, if you have bad eating habits, RCA might reveal that you overeat due to stress, boredom, or emotional triggers such as anxiety or depression. With this information, you can take steps to address these underlying issues, such as finding healthy ways to manage stress, engaging in activities to reduce boredom, or seeking help for emotional issues. RCA can also help you identify any external factors that contribute to overeating, such as a lack of healthy food options, a sedentary lifestyle, or a lack of support from friends and family. By addressing these factors, you can create a more supportive environment that encourages healthier habits and helps you stop overeating.

RCA can help you change your habits by providing you with a structured and systematic approach to identify and address the root causes of the habit. By focusing on the underlying causes of the habit, rather than just its symptoms, you can create a more effective and sustainable plan for change.

What is the Purpose of Using the Root Cause Analysis 5 Whys?

Although plenty of problem-solving tools are available, few are as quick and effective as the 5 whys root cause analysis. The purpose of using a 5 Whys analysis is to ensure you completely understand why something went wrong. Choosing this method helps you get to the root and offers insight into all the contributing aspects. Resultantly, you can create a more complete fix by approaching an issue from this angle. Addressing the many more minor problems that helped create a more significant situation means you can help prevent future recurrences and stop those little things from compounding until there is a more substantial issue.

5 Whys Example

Applying the 5 Whys is simple, and you can use the charts below to help you apply it. Below is a 5 why example to show you how to use the 5 Whys chart. For this example, the problem is that a child is failing a class in school. You will see how asking why leads to a better understanding of the issue, allowing you to fix each contributing aspect. Creating your own chart is as simple as listing each question as it occurs, then asking why, as we’ve done here.

Applying The 5 Whys: Example

Lack of focus/not paying attention
Sitting near another kid who is distracting them
The other student is sitting nearby on purpose to bully them
They had an argument on the playground
There weren’t enough balls for the basketball court

As you can see, asking a few simple questions revealed a lot here. The lack of focus is because another student is bullying this child for refusing to give up their ball on the playground. While it’s best to discuss the issue with the teacher, several effective ways exist to address the whole situation, rather than making a ‘bandaid’ style temporary fix, like having the student bring more work home.

You can use the same list of answers to your ‘why’ chart to make a ‘how’ chart. Rather than asking why something happened, you look at the answer and ask how to fix it. For the chart above, you would first ask how to help them focus, then how you can stop those students from sitting near one another. You might ask how the other student is getting away with bullying or how they are causing distractions. Then you’d need to know how to stop the students from arguing over sports equipment. Finally, you realize the school doesn’t have enough to go around, so you ask how to get more basketballs to this school. Not only will the distraction problem get solved, but you will be able to prevent a recurrence by removing all the contributing factors.

Here is another example that shows you why you have not managed to change your habits in the past.

  • Why did I keep eating junk food even though I tried to diet? Because I really wanted to eat it.
  • Why did I want to eat it? Because it made me feel good.
  • Why did it make me feel good? Because it made me feel alert and focused.
  • Why did I need to feel alert? Because I was very tired.
  • Why was I tired? Because I didn’t sleep enough.

Now that I got to the root cause, I realize that I must ensure I sleep enough or find other ways to feel more alert without using food. The analysis helped me get to the root cause.

The Five Whys Templates

Choose any 5 whys diagram below to help you use the 5 whys technique to uncover the root of a problem. Each template has space for 5 why questions. You can also use the free online 5 whys root cause analysis creator which will fill out the template for you.

Uses for Root Cause Analysis

  • Quality control: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of defects or problems in a manufacturing process, and to implement corrective actions to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
  • Healthcare: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of adverse events in a healthcare setting, and to develop strategies to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
  • Safety: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of accidents or incidents in a workplace or other environment, and to develop strategies to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
  • IT: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of problems or outages in an IT system, and to implement corrective actions to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.
  • Customer service: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of customer complaints, and to develop strategies to improve the customer experience and prevent similar complaints from happening in the future.
  • Business process improvement: RCA can be used to identify the root cause of inefficiencies or problems in a business process, and to develop strategies to improve the process and increase efficiency.
  • Habit changing: RCA can be used to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of your habit, which can help you determine the most effective strategies for changing it.

Final Thoughts

Using the 5 Whys approach, you can quickly, efficiently, and effectively root out almost any problem. Doing this allows you to effect rapid solutions for whatever issues arise. Although these are generally used in a work setting, you can also apply this idea to other aspects of your life. Whenever you have a problem, ask why. Then keep asking why until you have narrowed it down to a simple issue you can resolve quickly. After that, you ask how to change each ‘why’ answer.

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Photo of NicoleMy name is Nicole and I created this website to share the tools that keep me organized and productive and help me reach my goals. I hope that you will find them helpful too.

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