a curious mind

the power of why

If you are ever confronted by a thorny problem wrapped in failure, then ask your team and yourself "why" 5 times. As part of root cause analysis, "why" is used to dig deep. The exercise works well for life matters, too.



Here's an example from the link above.

  • 1. Why did the machine stop? (There was an overload and the fuse blew.)
  • 2. Why was there an overload? (The bearing was not sufficiently lubricated.)
  • 3. Why was it not lubricated sufficiently? (The lubrication pump was not pumping sufficiently.)
  • 4. Why was it not pumping sufficiently? (The shaft of the pump was worn and rattling.)
  • 5. Why was the shaft worn out? (There was no strainer attached and metal scrap got in.)

Repeating "why" five times, like this, can help uncover the root problem and correct it. If this procedure were not carried through, one might simply replace the fuse or the pump shaft. In that case, the problem would recur within a few months. The Toyota production system has been built on the practice and evolution of this scientific approach. By asking and answering "why" five times, we can get to the real cause of the problem, which is often hidden behind more obvious symptoms.