The 5 Whys Technique


Both in our personal and professional lives, it is common to face various obstacles or daily challenges. Having the ability to confront them constructively and structurally can make a significant difference. If you are a manager, this is one of the essential skills that every leader should possess.

In this context, it is useful to know techniques to apply daily, such as the 5 Whys tool, which is widely used for problem-solving.

What is the 5 Whys Technique?

The 5 Whys is a simple yet powerful approach to identify the root cause of a problem by repeatedly asking “why” until the underlying issue is revealed. It encourages deeper analysis and helps avoid only addressing the symptoms of a problem.

Application of the 5 Whys Technique to Solve a Problem

1. Identify the Problem

Start by clearly defining the problem you are addressing. This could be a performance issue, process inefficiency, or any other challenge.

2. Ask “Why?” for the First Iteration

Ask why the problem occurred. This question should generate a response that identifies the reason for the problem. For example, “Why did the project not meet the deadline?”

3. Repeat the Process

Use the initial “why” response and ask “why” again. The answer to the second “why” will provide more information about the causes of the problem. Continue asking “why” for each successive response, typically five times (hence the name “Five Whys”).

4. Reach the Root Cause

After asking “why” several times, you should arrive at the root cause or the fundamental reason for the problem. This is where the central issue is identified, which, when addressed, can prevent similar problems in the future.

5. Implement Solutions

Once you have identified the root cause, you can develop and implement solutions that directly address that cause. This ensures that you are treating the symptoms and resolving the underlying problem.

Example of the 5 Whys in Action

Problem: The project did not meet the deadline.

  1. Why did the project not meet the deadline?
    • Because the final report was not completed on time.
  2. Why was the final report not completed on time?
    • Because the data collection took longer than expected.
  3. Why did the data collection take longer than expected?
    • Because the team encountered unexpected issues with the data sources.
  4. Why were there unexpected issues with the data sources?
    • Because the data sources were not thoroughly vetted before the project began.
  5. Why were the data sources not thoroughly vetted before the project began?
    • Because there was a lack of a clear process for vetting data sources.

Root Cause: Lack of a clear process for vetting data sources.

Solution: Develop and implement a comprehensive data source vetting process to prevent similar issues in future projects.


This exercise will yield valuable results for you. If you are already in a coaching process, we recommend discussing it with your coach, either through the platform’s chat or in your next session, to provide feedback on all the learnings. If you are not yet receiving coaching, you can write to us to schedule a demo.


The 5 Whys technique is an effective method for uncovering the root causes of problems and implementing solutions that address these fundamental issues. By repeatedly asking “why,” you can drill down to the heart of any problem, ensuring a thorough and effective resolution.


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