5 x WHY – let’s get to the root of the problem

In our previous post, we tried to bring to our Readers a Japanese management concept and we encouraged to use it in the day-to-day work of the event organizer. As we mentioned, this is an easy-to-implement concept that requires neither special preparation nor a large financial outlay. We also wrote about the reasons why Kaizen might not work. Today we present one of the Kaizen techniques for analyzing and solving problems. It’s based on asking the question “Why?”, repeated five times  (so-called 5W Technique).

Every “why” has its own “because”

Each of us knows the situation in which a persistent problem appears, which doesn’t want to disappear by itself. A problem that is unsolved, sooner or later comes back, though sometimes it may present itself in a different form. Usually, such recurring or persistent problems have their deepest source. In such situations, the solutions applied temporarily may seem comfortable, but they remove the problems only for a certain period of time, and after a while, these “elephants” often return to “the room” with redoubled power. Anyway, sooner or later you will have to deal with the problems again. So what to do to get rid of the problem once and for all, systemically and irrevocably? The answer to this question is to implement the “5 x why” technique – a simple but powerful tool, thanks to which you will say goodbye to the time-eater which is consuming your precious hours during the event organizing process.

Solving or counteracting?

Solving the problem often involves attempts to deal with its symptoms. The perfect example is the case when you resign from cooperation with a trainer who didn’t meet your expectations. Counteracting, on the other hand, has a deeper, more systemic dimension – it helps working out permanently mechanisms preventing the re-emergence of the problem. In our example, it will be the development of procedures not allowing hiring a person who doesn’t meet needed competencies.

Another example is the inefficient process of registering participants. The solution is to delegate more people to the registration process, while the counteraction will be to choose a reliable registration system, which will streamline this process and minimize the risk of errors. The “5 x why” is a method based on counteracting and reaching the source of the problem, which results in an extraordinary increase in effectiveness in work organization.

Implementing “5 x why” step by step

Start by inviting people who know the specificity of the problem and the process you are trying to fix. During the meeting, discuss the issue with the team, make sure that all participants of the meeting perceive the problem similarly. Give the problem a short name:

Example

A mess in handling registration and payment for training courses

Then write this sentence, adding the question “Why?”. Remember that precise naming the problem will help you reach its sources. The question “Why”, although seemingly simple, requires deeper reflection and providing answers that are based on facts, not suppositions. Now you can start getting to the bottom.

The first “Why” – why does the problem arise

Example

Why do we have a mess while handling registration and payment for a training course/conference?

Please note that the team members may indicate one obvious reason, but they also may suggest several different reasons, which may be also likely. Anyway, if they have support in facts, write down all the answers, formulating them in concise, precise sentences:

Example

  • Participants’ registrations get lost in mailboxes
  • Participants’ registrations are accepted by phone and the information disappears somewhere
  • We have difficulties in correctly assigning the payment transfer to the appropriate participant
  • We don’t see the current payment status
  • We don’t have the information about the available number of tickets/seats for the event

Four more “Why”

For each answer to the first question “Why”, ask again “Why”. After answering, ask the same question again. At this stage, try to simply ask and answer, leaving the conclusions for the end.

Example

Why are participants’ registrations get lost in mailboxes?

  • E-mails from participants have different titles
  • E-mails from participants fall into spam or are overlooked

Why information about participants’ registrations accepted by phone disappear somewhere?

  • Submissions are sometimes written on a piece of paper, and those slips are getting lost somewhere

Why do we have difficulties in correctly assigning the payment transfer to the correct participant?

  • The name of the payer often doesn’t match the participant’s details
  • It is not known for what event the participant paid for or the amount doesn’t match

Why we don’t we see the current payment status?

  • We don’t have a current account preview, only an accountant has it

Why we don’t have information about the availability of tickets/seats for the event?

  • We have problems with obtaining current information about who has already paid for the training

Why only (or as many as) five?

The number of 5 questions “Why” is not a result of fortune telling. It has appeared as a result of multiple tests of this method in practice, but actually, it’s not a strict number. It may happen that there will be more or fewer questions. The number of „Why” question is determined directly by the answers – if the answer to the next “Why”  doesn’t bring anything new, it means that the process of asking questions is already completed, and the cause of the problem can be found in previous answers.

What’s next?

After identifying the cause of the problem, you can begin to work out corrective actions that will help you get rid of the trouble once and for all. After implementing the remedies, don’t rest on your laurels – assess their effectiveness on an ongoing basis. Perhaps there will be a need to verify or modify them and here again, you can use the magic question “Why”.

***

In the event organizer’s work, the “5 x why” technique can become a simple way for quick identification of the main causes of the problem. It is a tool perfectly suited for organizing everyday work, increasing its efficiency, and – what’s really important – being characterized by incredible simplicity. In the example presented above, the obvious and comprehensive solution to the main problem is the use of an appropriate system of registering participants and handling online payments, which will automate and improve processes in the company.

 

Your browser is out of date. It has security vulnerabilities and may not display all features on this site and other sites.

Please update your browser using one of modern browsers (Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, IE 10).

X