Steve Worsley

Front-end developer at Studio Skylab.
Used to design & develop at Dubbed Creative.
Currently based in Manchester but doesn't support City or United or listen to Oasis, Stone Roses or the Smiths.

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September 2014

“ But Why? ”

Five Whys

If you’ve ever had a hard decision to make, stumbling through a fuzzy cloud of choices & apprehension, then the Five Whys technique might help. It will guide you in finding the root cause behind a problem or your true motivation behind an action.

Technique

Simply ask why, repeat up to five times & give yourself time to think through the answers.

For example:

“I fancy a bag of crisps.”

1. Why do you want a bag of crisps?

“If I want food then I must be hungry.”

2. Why are you hungry?

“Well I did just have lunch & my stomach doesn’t really feel hungry. So maybe I’m just bored & want to procrastinate.”

3. Why do you want to procrastinate?

“Mainly because I don’t find this work engaging. It’s boring.”

4. Why do you find the work boring?

“It’s not something I’m interested in. I’m not invested in it & it doesn’t make me happy. Maybe I should leave my job.”

So this example became serious pretty fast & it didn’t even need five repetitions to get to the real crux of the problem. You could then take the last answer & use the Five Whys technique again with “Why haven’t you left your job yet”.

Five is the ideal amount of times you’ll need to question yourself about a problem. Any more than that may result in an existential crisis.

Origins

The Five Whys technique is also called ‘root cause analysis’ & was originally developed by Sakichi Toyada of Toyota. Or more likely one of his kids who just wanted to annoy him.

This article is part of a series 2014 - 2024. 10 years of monthly blogging starting August 2014.

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