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The five “Whys”

Getting right to the root of a problem or intention



The 5 “Whys” method was invented in the ‘30s by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota.

It provides a way of clearly identifying the root cause of a problem, or questioning the initial intention of a project to find out the true reasons or motivations behind it.

The basis of Toyota’s scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem … By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.
Taiichi Ōno


Time needed: 15 to 25 minutes


Key steps

Start by presenting the topic to the group.

  1. Identification of the problem or question
    Ask each participant to note down a fact or question relating to the topic.
  2. Ask “why?” five times: starting from what they have written, everyone must ask themselves “why?” They answer the question once to find the cause of the problem, and then repeat the process four more times.
Download examples
  1. Imagination
    Once the root cause has been identified, ask the group to think of one or a few solutions.
  2. Share
    Invite the participants to share their first and last “why?”, along with their solutions or initial ideas.
  3. Debriefing
    Afterwards, ask the group how they found the process.
    Did the “Five Whys” help them to delve deeper into the topic? To see it from new perspectives? To acknowledge certain things?

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