Business Management & Problem Solving: The 5 Why's and How to Get to the Bottom of Any Problem.
Updated: Oct 27
Have your ever been in a staff meeting and asked someone on your team a question only to get an answer that just leaves you wanting more. Not that the answer that you received was wrong. It was just incomplete. And it sure didn't address the root cause of the issue or help you get to the bottom of things.
So here is a strategy that you can use the next time that you want to get to the heart of the matter:
It's called the "5 Why's" strategy.
And it works like this. You have to ask 5 Why's to get to the bottom of an issue.
Here is an example:
Q1: Why didn't the company reach or revenue target this year?
A: Because the economy is making it hard to sell our product.
A: Because or pricing is higher than some of our competitors.
A: Because we have had problems in our supply chain getting bulk discounts.
A: Because our procurement department is short staffed and haven't followed up.
A: Because HR didn't replace Ed when he retired and he was our best purchaser.
At first response, the company didn't hit the revenue targets because the economy is in a downturn. That seems reasonable, at least in part. Until we ask a few more 'why' questions. What we discover is that while the economy is likely a contributing factor, the root cause may be that the company lost their top purchaser who was able to secure substantial discounts from suppliers. So the company couldn't compete on price, and therefore was unable to gain new market share in a tight economy.
The next time that you want to get to the root of the problem. Dig down a little further and ask 5 Why's.