Slow Hack 003: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? (5 Whys)

Ask “Why?” 5 Times •

This hack is easy to explain but difficult to implement (especially consistently).

Asking “Why?” five times is a technique to help you get to the root cause of a problem. Simple as that!

The origin of the technique is typically attributed to Sakichi Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno at Toyota Motor Corporation:

We come across problems in all sorts of situations in life, but, according to Taiichi Ohno, pioneer of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, ‘Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.’ Ohno saw a problem not as a negative, but, in fact, as ‘a kaizen (continuous improvement) opportunity in disguise.’ Whenever one cropped up, he encouraged his staff to explore problems first-hand until the root causes were found. ‘Observe the production floor without preconceptions,’ he would advise. ‘Ask why five times about every matter.’

This hack is very flexible. Sometimes you only need three whys and in other cases you may need more than five. It’s not just for problems either. It can be used in positive situations to help focus and make decisions. Have you tried the 5 Whys? Let me know in the comments!

Check out all Slow Hacks here.

Originally published at Sloww.