October 28, 2016

Why? And five of them...

Finding the REAL reason

I am convinced we all at some point experienced that something didn't go quite the way we wanted to - and even though we thought we addressed the issue, it either pops up again or we never managed to quite solve it. 

There is no point in mopping up the water if the tap is still running, it is just going to get wet again

Work with solving the root problem, not the Symptom. 

Working in a LEAN environment I am used to asking WHY. Six Sigma training helped underlining this, and so did Lean training. It may also bit of a family trait, we analyse, and like to get to the very bottom of things. I can't help but wonder if that's because I come from a big family and with a lot of children around, you always hear "Why"... We are simply used to it - maybe not so strange that all of us ended up in IT, Lean environment, Logistics, Development, Project management... 

There is a recipe, a technique for this, the 5 Why principle.
5 Why has its root in Toyota Production System and is used across the globe, not the least in production environments, and can be used regardless of what you produce: Software as well as cars. It should, if you ask me, be part of ANY Lean environment.

Toyota writes about 5Why on their website. when they write about their history. Taichii Ohno, former Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Company would encourage the employees to go ask "Why" 5 times - and this was in the 1950:ies.
5 Why:s dates back even further - to the 1930:ies, when Sakichi Toyoda came up with the technique.

5 Why is a technique I will always continue to use - as I said, it's not useful to mop up the water if the tap is still leaking, and there is ALWAYS, is my experience, more than you see on the surface. It might look like a bit of an effort to go through 5 Why, but the beauty if it is that if you REALLY get to the root cause, you can prevent the problem from reoccurring, hence reducing waste long term. It always pays of to do a 5Why, is my experience.

As soon as you hear yourself saying "it's the same problem as before" or anything else that indicates that you saw this issue before, even if it was with different people, you know you haven't really gone deep enough to address the real issue - you have just been working with the symptoms (and trust me, it happens to all of us.). 

5 Why only truly works in an environment where you work together to solve a challenge or a problem. Before you start using 5Why you need to make sure that there is trust, so people dare to really respond to the questions in an honest way - no blame games, no "finding out whose fault it is" - that's just counter productive. Find the reason, improve. You have to see issues the way Taichii Ohno (大野耐) did:
"Having no problems is the biggest problem of all."
Elephant in river playing with a tyre (tire)Discovering the problems and the challenges means there is room for improvement and when we are able to see that, then we can also continue to grow and to get better, stronger, more efficient. 

We really should be SEARCHING for the problems and challenges - not shy away from them!

In my professional life I have always found 5 Why extremely helpful. If a server crash, if someone uploads the wrong information, if someone doesn't understand what you are trying to say - ask again. Ask why - and don't settle with the first answer you get - as that's probably just a symptom.

The 5Why simply is just that - as the 5 "Why" to drill deeper to find the real root cause of a problem. 

  • If it rained through the window because the window was open, ask yourself why the window was open. 
  • If the window was open because Hanna forgot to close it, ask yourself why Hanna forgot to close it. 

 and so on.  

In the little video below it's explained well. 



I could spend hours talking about examples where 5Why has helped us to find the real root cause and where it helped us come out stronger in the end - but I will save that for another time!

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