“every cloud has a silver lining”, a proverb reminds us that it is always possible to benefit from the occurrence of a problem. On the condition that you know how to analyze it!
The 5 Whys method is based on a series of simple questions to determine the source of a problem. It is thus a very good tool for quality in a company.
– The 5 Whys method was born in Japan during the 20th century when production techniques had to evolve, be rationalized and optimized in order to reduce costs.
– More precisely, this method aims at understanding the “root” cause of a problem. It consists of asking the question “Why (this problem occurred)? 5 times in a row.
– Once the “root” cause has been identified, it becomes possible to remedy the problem by providing appropriate solutions.
– Let’s take the very simple example of an unhappy customer.
1. Why is the customer unhappy?
He had to pay more than he expected.
2. Why did he have to pay more than he thought?
He paid a delivery charge in addition to the price he was quoted.
3. Why did he have to pay a delivery charge in addition to the advertised price?
He was not given the correct information when he bought the product.
4. Why didn’t he receive correct information at the time of his purchase?
The seller failed to tell him how much the additional shipping cost would be.
5. Why didn’t the seller tell him how much the additional shipping charges were?
The seller is not sufficiently trained.
– The remedy is obvious:
– The salesperson’s training needs to be enhanced. He must be able to inform the customer about the goods as well as all possible costs in addition to the purchase itself (VAT, delivery costs, extended warranty, …) and make sure that the customer has understood all the information given.
– A checklist could be established with the seller to guide him in his exchanges with the customer.
– We see that basic questions lead to the solution of the problem. Just as it did not take much time to analyze it, correcting it is easy and quick. The result will be a well-informed and loyal clientele who will make purchases without unpleasant surprises.
– A problem can have several causes. In this case, each cause is treated separately so as to provide all the necessary remedies.
– This process makes sense if it is carried out with the people responsible for the sector.
– The root causes will be better identified when they are closer to reality.
– The people involved in the analysis and reflection phase will be motivated to implement the remedies devised together. And likely to find other improvements in the processes afterwards.
This method is part of a set of practices resulting from a new approach linked to the evolution of production systems. Each method can bring elements to the analysis and feed the reflection. Always according to the same philosophy: achieve regular, continuous and inexpensive progress.
– Kaizen (contraction of two Japanese words kai/change and zen/better): also of Japanese origin, it is a continuous improvement process. This approach is practiced by all employees, each in his or her own field and every day. It generates a regular increase in quality at a lower cost.
– Combining a questioning of How? (questioning with the Why questioning).
– Or combine the 5 Whys with the 5 W “What, Why, Who, When, Where”, a method allowing you to go around the problem to be analyzed.
– Couple the 5 Whys with the 5 Ms (M for Manpower, Machines, Method, Money, Minutes). That is to say, ask yourself if the causes of the problems are related to the manpower, the means available, the method used, …
– The PDCA method (Plan, Do, Check, Act) with the Deming wheel which symbolizes the perpetual cyclic movement of improvement.
– TQM (Total Quality Management): still originating from Japan, it aims to avoid waste, the objective is achieved by reducing losses due to increased quality. As with the previous methods, it is the entire staff of the company that is involved. By analyzing and listening to the customer’s needs, production can be adjusted to a regular flow.
This list of complementary methods to the 5 Whys is not exhaustive…
The 5 Whys are a very effective and simple way of implementing rapidly visible improvements in a company.
And there’s nothing to stop you from using it on a personal level too!