Introducing the 5 Whys Template for Problem Solving

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
May 6, 2022
Updated on
Mar 16, 2023
Table of Content

While quick solutions are easy, they frequently just address the symptoms and squander valuable resources that could otherwise be used to address the root of the problem. They are not always effective. Persistent or recurring concerns are often a sign of more serious problems.

To combat that, why not use the 5 Whys template for root cause analysis? It’s a basic yet powerful technique that employs an iterative process of problem-solving based on Sakichi Toyoda's method. Starting with a problem statement, five questions beginning with the word "why" are asked to pinpoint the root cause.

What Is Root Cause Analysis?

The goal of the root cause analysis template is to identify the root causes of an issue to determine how (and why) it came to be in the first place. You can then build an action plan to help you identify the elements that contribute to your problem, and prevent them from recurring by employing different analysis approaches to collect data.

Think about a personal daily struggle, such as if your internet service suddenly stops working. You might find an alternative like going over to a friend's house or a coffee shop and use the internet there. However, in doing so you not only fail to tackle the issues, but also overlook the root causes. Calling your Internet service provider and requesting that they investigate the root of the problem using a root cause analysis template would be preferable.

What Is a Root Cause Analysis Based on the 5 Whys Template?

The 5 Whys template method begins with a single problem for which you ask a 'why' question based on the preceding response.

To ensure that each step is logically linked to the one before it, asking “why” is essential. Each “why” is a step closer to solving the problem.

Companies use this method to find manufacturing defects and enhance the quality of their products and procedures. Companies can use the 5 Whys template to track how countermeasures have worked in the past.

When to Employ a Five Whys Analysis

The Five Whys template can be used for quality improvement, problem-solving and troubleshooting, although it works best when tackling simple or moderately challenging issues.

If you need to solve a complex or crucial problem, it might not be the best option. The Five Why analysis can help you take a single path of inquiry or a restricted number of paths. This can be counterproductive, given the fact that there could be several causes. There may be better ways to figure out what happened and why, for instance using Failure Mode and Effects Analysis Cause and Effect Analysis in such situations.

However, the Five Whys work because this basic strategy can rapidly lead you to the source of a problem. So, whenever a process or system isn't working as it should, give it a shot before diving into a more in-depth investigation and obviously before attempting to design a solution.

5 Whys Template Analysis Example

Using the 5 Whys RCA method, you'll learn to identify the root cause and find a solution.

Identify the problem: "The delivery was late."

  1. Why?
  2. "The job took longer than expected" – Why?
  3. "We ran out of resources" – Why?
  4. "The resources were used for another urgent project." – Why?
  5. "There weren't enough resources to cater to urgent projects, and new supplies couldn't be delivered on time" – Why?

Root Cause: Inefficient supply of resources.

Solution: Find a supplier who can deliver on short notice.

5 Whys Root Cause Analysis Template

The 5 Whys root cause analysis approach may be simple, but it could be rendered ineffective if participants ignore its fundamental principles.

How to Facilitate the 5 Whys Template

Simply put, the model follows an eight-step procedure:

  1. Form a Group

Gather people who know the problem's intricacies and the system you're attempting to fix, and brainstorm solutions. Keep the team on track by bringing in a facilitator who can keep them focused on finding practical solutions.

  1. Prepare the Resources

To get the most out of your 5 Whys analysis session, you should use sticky notes and a whiteboard. An online whiteboard is a great way to help individuals better understand what happened. As many people as necessary can collaborate in real-time on digital sticky notes, and it's easy to customize the template.

  1. What Is the Issue?

Try to catch a glimpse of the issue in action if you can. Talk about it with your group and develop a succinct, unambiguous problem description.

  1. Enquire the First "Why?"

Identify the source of the issue with your team. "Why?" may sound simple, but addressing it involves careful consideration. Seek responses that are based on rigorous data.

  1. Continue Asking, "Why?" for a Total of Five Times

Ask four additional "whys" for each of the responses you came up with in Step 3. Use that information to rephrase the question as soon as you've recorded an answer.

  1. Stop When You've Found the Root Cause

When asking "why" yields no additional relevant answers, it’s a sign that you've found the underlying cause of the problem and no longer need to go any farther.

  1. Identify and Treat the Root of the Problem(s)

Once you've nailed down at least one root cause, it's time to sit down with your team and plan how to keep this from happening again.

  1. Observe Your Progress

It is essential to keep a careful eye on the effectiveness of your countermeasures in dealing with the original issue. They could possibly require revision or even complete replacement. Make sure you've found the correct root cause by re-running the 5 Whys template.

5 Whys Root Cause Analysis Layout

Here's a Five Whys example template and the answers found as a result of the investigation:

  1. Why did the company's new employee care app take four weeks to launch?

Answer: We discovered new complexity during the testing process.

  1. Why did new challenges arise?

Answer: A vital use case was left unaddressed during the development period.

  1. Why was a critical use case overlooked during the design stage?

Answer: Employees from the department were not included in the early brainstorming sessions.

  1. Why were crucial employees not present during the brainstorming sessions?

Answer: A particular department was in charge of leading the brainstorming session. Later in the development process, new departments were brought on board.

  1. Why does a particular department oversee this procedure?

Answer: It has always been done this way.

This due diligence points towards the following solution:

Use the strengths of all departments to create a new process that encourages interdepartmental cooperation. Throughout the entire process, make sure vital department members are present at all brainstorming meetings.

Wrapping Up

The 5 Why analysis is a simple and efficient way to find solutions to prevalent problems. Using a series of "why" questions, its primary objective is finding the precise cause of a given situation.

Retrospective templates can help organize positive and negative feedback after completing a project or a working Sprint. During retrospectives, teams examine current issues and goals, develop new ideas, and define what actions are necessary to make progress. You can execute your analysis through the 5 Why root cause analysis template with team collaboration on GoRetro

GoRetro lets you choose from various pre-made retrospective board layouts, or you can design your own from scratch. For more information, visit our website.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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