5 Whys - Meaning & Definition

Published in Operations and Supply Chain Terms by MBA Skool Team, Last Updated: May 25, 2013

What is 5 Whys?

5 Whys is a problem solving technique where repetitive questions are asked to find out the root cause of the problem. This was first used by Toyota production system in 1970s. It is a simple method in analyzing problem and doesn’t requires any hypothesis data, regression and statistical tools etc.

Benefits of 5 whys

  • Quickly determines the root cause of the problem
  • No additional costs are incurred under its usage
  • Helps in determining relationship between various problem causes
  • Simple, easy and doesn’t require any regression or statistical tools like 6 sigma


5 Whys technique is most useful in day to day life (Things involving human interactions or factors) which doesn’t require any statistical tools to analyze. There are two techniques to perform 5 whys:

  1. Fishbone Diagram (or Ishikawa)
  2. Tabular Format


Steps to use 5 whys:

  1. First assemble all domain related personnel to discuss the problem
  2. Write down the problem and try to comprehend the situation
  3. Ask “Why” to personnel and jot down the answer
  4. If root cause is not found, repeat steps 3 and 4
  5. 5. If root cause is found, come to collective decision and attempt for a resolution

Below flow chart pictorially explains 5 whys with a simple example:

This article has been researched & authored by the Business Concepts Team. It has been reviewed & published by the MBA Skool Team. The content on MBA Skool has been created for educational & academic purpose only.

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