Aim: This tool is called “W.H.Y.” as it “Will Help You”. A simple brainstorming approach to identifying the root cause of an outcome. Similar in concept to the “5 Why’s template” pioneered by Toyota; it’s based on a sequence of “why is it happening?” questions that will continue until a satisfactory answer and main solution is achieved.
Method: Start by stating what is the main issue you’re facing – for which a solution is needed. It should be stated simply, as it first comes to mind – without trying to overthink or narrow it down. Then ask the first “why is it happening?”; the main explanation provided becomes the next issue to address in the next “why?”. The Q&A continues until you finally, believe to have identified the root cause of the problem as initially stated. The logic here is similar to the diagnostic process in medicine: following the physiopathology of signs and symptoms you identify the main condition (aetiology) and you can decide the best treatment accordingly (i.e., “cure the disease and not the symptoms”). The example template will clearly show this.
For each why-answer: Identify a possible (or temporary) fix and assign who is the most relevant team member that can effectively action the change. Once you get to the last answer (i.e., root cause) reassess the previous steps & solutions identified to check if they still stand as a needed solution or – being interconnected with the main root cause – might end up being solved “automatically” by addressing the root cause (think domino effect), which then doesn’t require any additional efforts.
Finally: Have a clear definition of the solutions and who is responsible to action the change. Also include the overall plans with a clear action plan and timelines, which is fundamental for successful improvement.