5 Whys? Root Cause Analysis

5 Whys? Root Cause Analysis

Are you dealing with difficulties, but there is no clarity?

Is there a general feeling or dissatisfaction with things? Are you not sure what is going wrong? Do you ever come out of a conflict with someone and feel like it went badly or could have been dealt with better?

I get these feelings quite a lot and a tool I’ve used to help me get clarity on what the actual problem is, is by using the 5 Whys technique.

Five whys (or 5 whys) is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. – Wikipedia

What it is

Step 1 – Try and describe your feelings, using somethings like the Feelings Wheel can help you describe how you feel if you are a bit rubbish at explicitly knowing how you feel.

Step 2 – Try and think of something that has happened that might make you feel this way. I usually know what is bothering me!

Step 3 – Explain why that situation arose, and your reaction.

Step 4 – Try and give details of why you reacted that way.

Step 5 – The same as 3 and 4.

Step 6 – You get the idea

Step 7 – The Key part – What can you do about this now. Otherwise, what can you learn to do next time a scenario like this happens again.

I’ve made a template for this to try and help me process these feelings and not let them internalise and fester. 

If you are honest and don’t hold back, this basic tool can help you get some clarity on why you feel this way. 

It is not a perfect tool. It sometimes doesn’t work at getting to the true root cause of the problem. In those moments of confusion, upset and dissatisfaction, it is a tool to try and get some clarity and perspective on a situation. 

How I use it

I’ve included an example of using 5 Whys to deal with a feeling of dissatisfaction after trying to deal with a conflict. Often I struggle with getting a clear perspective on conflicts. I take things personally, I care. Following this process later on allows me to see where I could have de-escalated earlier or at least feel like I did my best in dealing with the situation.

I hope it helps!

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