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Answering the 5 Whys During Root Cause Analysis

By: NetreoNoaa
September 29, 2020

Getting to the root of a problem on time

In today’s IT’s landscape, a variety of tools are available to us to help with root cause analysis process. Leveraging your tools and using them optimally is necessary to any system but it’s important to remember that tools do not have access to all the information available for them to be able to truly solve every problem So to truly get to the true root cause, you need a process that will take us beyond the scope of tools. While there are many methodologies the following is a favorite here at Netreo. The 5 whys method.


What is the root cause analysis process: 5 why method? 

The 5 Whys method is a well-established root cause analysis tool, and it has the advantage of being one of the easiest to use and implement. It was created by Sakichi Toyoda as part of the Toyota production process and the technique became an integral part of the Lean management philosophy.

To put it simply, the 5 whys simply means asking “Why did that happen?” five times to get to the root cause. It may take fewer or more times of asking why to get to the root cause, but repeatedly asking why points to issues outside of the technical.

The 5 Whys - Netreo IT Infrastructure Management Root Cause Analysis Tools

For the 5 Whys method to work, it is integral you are involving technical experts in the root cause analysis process. People with practical experience can give you the most valuable information regarding any problem that appears in their area of expertise.

The following are a few ways to make the 5 whys method as optimal as possible.

  • Know when to stop asking why. Going too deep down the rabbit hole can generate dozens of suggestions and complaints which can deviate from the goal. If you are starting to get many off-topic explanations or comments on things that are only tangentially related, it’s a good indicator that you should go back a couple of “whys”.


  • Keep in mind that a problem may have more than one root cause. If this is the case it is necessary to split the analysis into several causes and run the 5 whys on each of them.

The 5 Whys technique can make the prospect of root cause analysis less daunting for you and your team. It encourages each team member to share ideas for continuous improvement rather and avoids a blame game. 


What happens after you find a root cause?

The work doesn’t stop once you reach a conclusion about your root cause. Once you’ve decided on corrective action, you need to assign specific action items to individuals to make sure they are done and to observe the results.


Sometime after the corrective actions are implemented, the team should meet again to check to see if the actions had the intended consequences. If not, you need to start to process from the beginning and make sure you did not miss a key cause.


Once completed the case should be documented and sent out to the whole organization. Sharing this information can give insight into what potential problems your team may face and how to confront and eliminate them.


The 5 Whys technique is a great technique to use alongside your IT management tools to analyze root causes. It can go beyond the scope of your hardware and software to point to non-technical root causes. 


Any questions? Make sure to contact us! asd


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