Why 5 Whys

I have never been one to just accept any explanation.  This was not because I didn’t believe the person, it was not because I wanted to argue, it was not because I was just a PITA kid/teenager/newbie in the workplace that thought I knew better (OK, so this might have been true some of the time).  My brain truly needs to know the details and facts behind the statement.  I don’t just question other’s statements just to question them; I am looking for the logic, the trail that got there in the first place.  If I have done this to you and drove you crazy, I do apologize, but to be honest, I do it to myself.  If I have a random thought, the first thing my own brain does is try to tie the previous thoughts, statements, reactions together to see where it came from.  My brain just does not seem to accept things without logic and data tied to them.  Does this sound exhausting? It is.

Fortunately I have been able to turn this in to a career of helping others through logical analysis and taking it to the next step making data driven decisions.  Imagine, to my surprise sitting in a training class last December. a slide appears called “The 5 Whys.”  Now I love training, but my ears perked and I sat up in my chair.  Wait, this is a real thing… this isn’t just an annoying habit I have where people just don’t understand why I need to know why. (There may be something to the young female moving up in the IT government contracting world that is a part of this as well, but that is a different topic for a different day).

“The 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.[1]The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem.”
From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys

There it is – it’s in Wiki, it has to be true (I need to find a sarcasm font).  But to be serious, as I started researching, (because that’s what I do), I found article after article discussing the topic, it’s relation to the business world, personal life, etc.  Here are some links and key points that stuck out to me if you’re interested, if not, well skip them.

“The 5 Whys uses “counter-measures,” rather than solutions. A counter-measure is an action or set of actions that seeks to prevent the problem arising again, while a solution may just seek to deal with the symptom. As such, counter-measures are more robust, and will more likely prevent the problem from recurring.”
From <https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm>

“It’s important to note that the purpose of the 5 whys isn’t to place blame, but rather to uncover the root cause of why something unexpected occurred. Additionally, it helps a team create small, incremental steps so that the same issue doesn’t happen again (to anyone).”
From https://open.buffer.com/5-whys-process/

“Instead of putting a band-aid on your problems, use the 5 Whys approach explained above to identify the root cause of any problem you may be having. Then, take steps to strike at the root of the problem. That way, you’ll prevent the problem from recurring–and possibly getting bigger and more complex–in the future.”
From <https://daringtolivefully.com/the-5-whys>

“Sometimes when you ask “why” it may not be the actual word “why”
From <http://nourishingminimalism.com/2014/10/decluttering-tactics-the-5-whys.html>

“With the 5 Whys Analysis you dig deep to find the root cause of a problem. When you do that you get a chance not to only successfully solve a problem, but to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself.

I use this technique very often and I am always surprised about the underlying cause that led to the problem. I figured out that the root cause of 90 % of the problems I encounter in life are deep underlying emotional knots, false beliefs, bad habits or a lack of knowledge. There is only a small set of problems caused by a lack of luck or changes in the environment. Most often I am the one leading myself straight into encountering the problem.

Employing the 5 Whys technique when you encounter a problem especially helps to avoid logical traps, discussions based on wrong assumptions, and avoiding the essence of why the problem is really happening. Consequently, you can easily avoid playing the blame game, feeling sorry for yourself and doing any other unproductive activities, and go straight to finding the source of the problem.”
From <https://agileleanlife.com/5-whys/>

  1. “Why? Because the root cause is much harder to identify than the symptoms…
  2. Why? Because the first response to “why” is usually a symptom…
  3. Why? Because our limited perceptions lead to assumptions and judgments that are often based on personal bias, experience, incomplete, and/or inaccurate information…
  4. Why? Because symptoms are how people in a system experience the problems and make meaning of their situation…
  5. Why? Because systems are complex, people have diverse experiences, and problems are often hidden deep below the surface.

Therefore: Personal bias, experience, judgments and assumptions need to be challenged and tested.”
From <https://www.slideshare.net/ajcotaylor/5-whys-and-the-unlocking-of-existential-answers>

Ok – so now you know what my brain does (or maybe not, but I tried).  So what does that have to do with the blog? it is the reason why whenever I see a headline, a statement, I reach out to my best friend Google and start typing away.

What I am looking for is the “Why would someone report, say, do this?” Trying to find the path to the root of others is just as important as getting to your own.  Tracing the path helps identify the illogical steps, the purpose behind those steps, any intent that may be used.  Once these things are identified, it’s easier to scrape away the carefully built shell around the truth and expose the facts.

If the why is apparent, or you have gotten to the root of the why and identify that these things are due to “Personal bias, experience, judgments and assumptions need to be challenged and tested.” are we to just sit back, throw up our hands, and let it go?  I say no.  The below statement describes my point better than I ever could:

“Root Cause Analysis
In society we arrest and jail our criminals, as we must, but then we frequently find that they end up in jail again. Yes the criminal was the “cause” of the problem, but often the criminal behavior was itself the result of something that came before. For example, if someone is addicted to drugs, they might steal in order to pay for the drugs; sending them to jail doesn’t solve the underlying drug addiction problem, so that person robs again. When we fail to look deep enough we find ourselves struggling and building up frustration.”
From <http://sixsigmastudyguide.com/how-root-cause-analysis-can-transform-lives/>

So here I am, from Childhood (and some adult) annoyance to building a career to writing a blog.  Part of this blog will be my exploration for facts using this concept.  To some, the thoughts I will put out here will still appear as that annoyance, reading too much in to things, don’t “need to know,” or I should “just accept” things.  For those of you who would like to see where this takes me, come along for the ride.  I am sure I will have missteps, but I promise if there are facts presented, they are located in multiple sources of all biases.  You can trust this or not.  I am no longer going to try to find a fox news source to try to convince others that I have done my research and don’t take headlines for granted.  Acknowledging we live in a world where “alternative facts” and “Fake news” have become the “word of the day” every day and are now used as projection to hide the truth; gas-lighting at its best.  I will use the articles that best articulate the conclusion I have drawn and will use as many primary sources as possible.  I only ask that any comments come back to me with facts.  If I start to get comments that don’t really get this concept or point to sources known for misleading or falsifying information, give me a minute and I will find some training and research on identifying “fake news” to help you learn this important skill.

In today’s world the mass amounts of data available to us is a blessing and a curse.  For my brain’s need to trace through “the 5 Whys,” it has made it much easier and is vital with such disparate information being presented these days.  I ask that you open your minds and hearts to thoughts and opinions that may not be your first inclination; don’t just think outside the box, get rid of the box.  This world is full of more colors that can fit in a Crayola box and we are better for searching out the new colors every day.  Welcome to my journey, hope you enjoy the ride!

3 thoughts on “Why 5 Whys

  1. Nice! I have this type of brain too… It sometimes gets annoying when you find yourself constantly researching something and layers into your google searching you wonder… how did I even get here.


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