The five whys for your personal life

The Five Whys

Ever had an uncomfortable run-in with someone, for example, a disagreement with a colleague, only for the same issue to pop up three months later? Sometimes it can be easy to fix a surface problem, and not look too much further into it. And as humans, we love taking the easy route.

Until of course, your problem springs up again. This problem could be a communication issue in a relationship, a mystery sports injury, or perhaps one of your more negative habits. But how to find a lasting solution?

The Five Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore “the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem,” (Serrat, 2009 | PDF). It takes an issue, and drills five layers deep, asking why to find opportunities and lower-level causes. The technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda for Toyota, but like many excellent models to come out of Toyota, it can be applied to the problems of everyday life, too.

There are three key things to remember about the powerful use of the Five Whys technique:

  1. Accurate and complete statements of problems – writing a problem down helps clarify it.
  2. Complete honesty in answering the questions – the truth about yourself and others!
  3. Clear determination to get to the root of a problem

Five is a good number to start with to ensure you are looking deep enough into a problem, plus you can use your hand as a visual/physical reference to count down the levels. Or you know, think of burgers – Five Guys – cheese, lettuce, pickle, patty, and bun. Done 🍔