How to Effectively Use Five Why’s ?

Although the 5 Why’s is an elementary tool when it comes to six sigma methodology, it is nonetheless important. Since there is a high degree of subjectivity involved with the usage of the tool, it is suggested that it be used only by a team of cross functional experts to obtain best results. Here is the list of the steps to follow to get best results:

Step 1 - Be Careful While Creating Problem Statements: The main goal of the Five Why’s tool is to ensure that we move past symptoms and make headway into finding and solving the root cause. It is therefore important that the problem be framed in the correct manner. As the old saying goes “A problem well defined is half solved”. The definition of the problem should be objective i.e. it must include facts and measurements. It must leave no room for ambiguity for words like “more”, “less” etc. Its only when the problems can be defined in concrete numerical terms can a desired solution be defined and worked upon.

Step 2 - Honesty – Avoid the Blame Game: Power and politics in an organization are a severe hindrance towards moving forward with the Five Why’s analysis. Many times brainstorming sessions do not work because there is deliberate shielding of problems by departments to avoid being penalized for being inefficient in the past. It should be ensured that the participants are indeed objective. There must be no penalties on bringing out past and present shortcomings, instead it must be encouraged.

Also the rules of the discussion must be made clear prior to beginning the process. The focus must always be on results and not the people involved. Organizations that move beyond people are the ones that succeed with their six sigma endeavors.

Step 3 - Parent Child Diagram: The first focus should be on getting as many problems on the discussion board as possible. Once this is done and the answers begin to get repetitive, one must start mapping the levels of causes. For example A causes B, B causes C and C causes D. In this case A is a Level 1 cause, B is a level 2 cause and C is a level 3 cause when it comes to solving D as a problem. Solving A would pull the rug beneath all other issues and the management will be able to use much more with limited resources than it would otherwise have done.

Step 4 - Ensure That the Cause is Systematic: A systematic cause is one where the system is to be corrected, not the parties in the system. A six sigma process does not allow error even if the participants willfully want to err. Hence the root cause analysis should ensure that it is not degenerating to a finger pointing exercise. The idea should be to make the system so efficient that it does not allow any errors whatsoever.


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