Problem Solving: Use The 'Five Whys' To Identify The Source

Problem Solving: Use The ‘Five Whys’ To Identify The Source

15th August 23

Having recently discussed whether you are focusing on the right problem, today we look at how to identify the source of that problem.

In May, Simon visited Nottingham University, where he spoke to postgraduate students and business leaders about what we do and how they can improve productivity in the workplace. This is the latest in a series of topics that were discussed that day.

What is your business problem?

To truly understand exactly what issue you are facing – and to use the ‘Five Whys’ properly – begin by writing a problem statement. 

An example problem statement would be: 

Process improvement projects always take longer than originally planned, leading to missed revenue opportunities because of failure to put improvements into place.

The ‘Five Whys’

Now let’s look at why this is happening:

  1. Why are projects taking too long? Answer: Because the work is not done to meet deadlines as originally planned
  2. Why is work not being done as originally planned? Answer: The assignments are not being made early enough to individual team members; therefore they do not have enough time to complete them by the original deadline
  3. Why are assignments not made early enough? Answer: Because decisions on the details of the assignment are taking longer than anticipated
  4. Why are they taking longer than anticipated? Answer: Because project leaders are not reaching an agreement on what needs to be done in a timely manner
  5. Why are project leaders taking longer than anticipated to reach decisions? Answer: Because other obligations result in a lack of organisation and communication 

What’s really going on?

Now we’ve applied the ‘Five Whys’, we have identified that the following issue needs to be addressed:

Leaders need to make the project a priority and continue to focus on making required decisions until the project is complete in a timely manner. Emphasis needs to be placed on regular meetings or better communication, or both

After delving deeper into the problem, you can now take steps to tackle the real source of the issue, leading to improvements further on and, ultimately, helping you to meet business goals.

Tackling your issues in this way can make a huge difference but sometimes it can be difficult to take that step back to see the bigger picture. By partnering with our expert productivity consultants, we can help you to look at the situation as a whole. And, once the source of your problem has been identified, we can provide a detailed roadmap indicating precisely where improvements could be made to reach your goals.

Get to grips with the real issue and take steps to improve performance. Contact our business improvement consultants today.