Why Ask Why?


By JP Chartier

Not only should you ask “why” when a problem occurs, according to Sakichi Toyoda, you should ask “why” five times to ensure that you reach the root cause of the problem. Sakichi Toyoda developed the “Five Why” technique after starting the Toyota Motor Corporation to enable technicians to quickly establish the real problem.

It’s human nature to ask “why,” but generally we tend not to ask “why” enough times. Toyoda found that asking “why” five times is usually enough to get to the real root of the issue.

Here’s how it works, you simply start at the problem and keep asking “why” until you reach the root cause. By repeatedly asking “why,” you peel away the layers of symptoms exposing the real issues that need your attention. Usually, you’ll find that the root issue is a process that isn’t working well or one that doesn’t yet exist.

There is an extension to the “Five Why” technique that you can apply called the “Fishbone” or “Ishikawa.” There are templates you add to the Fishbone that will help you discover root issues for business applications. To learn more about the Fishbone technique click here: http://www.bulsuk.com/2009/08/using-fishbone-diagram-to-perform-5-why.html

Here is an example of the “Five Why” technique (courtesy of medscape.com):


So the next time you’re facing a problem, remember asking why only once usually wont get you to the meat of the problem.


4 thoughts on “Why Ask Why?

  1. Sometimes when we face a problem, we give up too easily without asking why and without taking the necessary steps to explore the actual root of the problem. From now on, I am going to say ‘Why?’ a little more often!!

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