Browse Definitions:
Definition

5 Whys

Five Whys, sometimes written as “5 Whys,” is a guided team exercise for identifying the root cause of a problem. Five Whys is used in the “analyze” phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) methodology.

The exercise begins with a facilitator stating a problem and then asking the question “Why?” (meaning “Why did the problem occur?”). The group brainstorms answers based on direct observation. Once the group agrees upon an answer, the facilitator again asks the question, “Why?”

The exercise got its name because it generally takes five iterations of the questioning process for the group to arrive at the root-cause of a problem -- but it is perfectly correct for the facilitator to ask less than five “whys” or more than five “whys” depending on the group’s needs.

Here is an example of how a Five Whys exercise might proceed:

Facilitator: Our websites were down from 2pm to 2:45 pm on Saturday. Why?

Group: Because the external DNS server failed.

Facilitator: Why did the external DNS server fail?

Group: Because the central process unit (CPU) was peaked at 100% and couldn’t handle outside requests.

Facilitator: Why did the CPU peak at 100%?

Group: Because the server kept trying to auto-update Windows.

Facilitator: Why did the server keep trying to auto-update Windows?

Group: Because when the administrator created the server, he forgot to uncheck the auto-update service.

Facilitator: Why did the administrator forget to uncheck the auto-update service when he created the server?

Group: Because he was in a hurry and got distracted by an alarm going off.

Once the team has agreed that they have identified the root cause of the problem – in this case, the administrator getting distracted and forgetting to turn off auto-update, the facilitator should help the group to determine corrective action.

Facilitator: How can we make sure that each administrator unchecks auto-update when he creates a new server, no matter how hurried or distracted he gets?

Group: Create a vanilla server image with auto-update turned off. Have administrators clone this image when deploying new servers.

Five Whys originated in the Toyota Production System, where it was used for post-mortem investigations into equipment failures and workplace safety incidents. It has proved to be especially useful for helping management teams identify and fix problems that at first glance appear to be technical problems, but upon further investigation, turn out to be people problems.

This was last updated in September 2012

Continue Reading About 5 Whys

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

  • audit program (audit plan)

    An audit program, also called an audit plan, is an action plan that documents what procedures an auditor will follow to validate ...

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

SearchStorage

  • nearline storage

    Nearline storage is the on-site storage of data on removable media.

  • application-aware storage

    Application-aware storage is a storage system with built-in intelligence about relevant applications and their utilization ...

  • Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA)

    Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) is a technology that allows computers in a network to exchange data in main memory without ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • 3D XPoint

    3D XPoint is memory storage technology jointly developed by Intel and Micron Technology Inc.

  • RRAM or ReRAM (resistive RAM)

    RRAM or ReRAM (resistive random access memory) is a form of nonvolatile storage that operates by changing the resistance of a ...

  • JEDEC

    JEDEC is a global industry group that develops open standards for microelectronics.

SearchCloudStorage

  • Google Cloud Storage

    Google Cloud Storage is an enterprise public cloud storage platform that can house large unstructured data sets.

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

Close