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The ‘Five Whys’ Analysis

By asking the question ‘why?’ you can peel away the layers of an issue to get to its root-cause. It can uncover the real cause of a problem that has occurred during a project or programme. It not only uncovers glitches in the delivery, but also issues with organisational or team processes.

The causes of a problem often lead you to ask other questions. You may need to ask ‘why’ more than five times to get to the origin of a problem.

Top Tips;

  • Avoid assumptions and encourage your team to keep drilling down to the real root-cause of a problem
  • Focus your resources in the correct areas and make sure the right action is taken
  • Ground your answers in fact, avoiding listing events that might have happened

‘Five whys’ – a practical example  – what do you think is the root-cause?

The root-cause here is the lack of a schedule for equipment maintenance .

Setting up a proper maintenance schedule helps ensure that patients should never again be late due to faulty equipment. This reduces delays and improves flow. If you simply repair the trolley or do a one-off safety rail check, the problem may happen again sometime in the future.

This analysis technique uses counter-measures, rather than solutions. This makes sure that action(s) prevent the problem arising again, rather than a solution which just deals with the situation.