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Know your why? But do you have 5 of them?

There is a lot of talk about finding your why. The company’s why. Your why statement. But have you heard of the 5 why's? Have you used the 5 why's? If you’ve heard of them but never used them, why?

Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Why's technique in the 1930s. In its basic form, it’s a great root cause analysis. Many problems we see, personal and in business, are just symptoms and not the real issue. By asking why 5 times, or as many as needed, one can find the root of the problem and address it, instead of constantly addressing symptoms that reoccur of manifest in other ways.

Have you ever addressed the same issue over and over and yet it keeps coming back?

Let’s look at a widely known example regarding the Lincoln Monument. While this example has not been confirmed, it still shows the path and thinking that one can use with the 5 why's.

Why #1 – Why is the monument deteriorating?

Because harsh chemicals are frequently used to clean the monument.

Why #2 – Why are harsh chemicals needed?

To clean off the large number of bird droppings on the monument.

Why #3 – Why are there a large number of bird droppings on the monument?

Because the large population of spiders in and around the monument are a food source to the local birds

Why #4 – Why is there a large population of spiders in and around the monument?

Because vast swarms of insects, on which the spiders feed, are drawn to the monument at dusk.

Why #5 – Why are swarms of insects drawn to the monument at dusk?

Because the lighting of the monument in the evening attracts the local insects.

Solution: turn the lights on later in the evenings and off earlier in the mornings when they won’t attract bugs.

Could this thought process help you and your company or team solve problems?

A former client came to me with the problem of needing more sales to keep the staff busy. They needed to hire a salesperson ASAP…or did they?

We need to hire someone in business development now!


We don’t have enough leads to keep the staff busy!


The current sales people aren't getting can't get high enough sales numbers!


It seems they aren’t calling enough leads or following up with potential sales…


It seems they don’t want to do the sales so they just do some customer service…


…no one is supervising or tracking to ensure they are doing their job.

Instead of paying a salary to three people (getting only the work from one), let’s help guide the first two do their job.

Even in your personal life you can use the 5 why's to get a better understanding of what’s important to you or happening in your world.

I want to lose weight.


I don’t think I’m attractive.


My spouse doesn’t pay attention to me.


They are always working.


We have rough finances and need the money to pay the bills.


We ran up debt and are having a difficult time paying it off.

I need to lose weight because we ran up the bills… While overall health is extremely important, this was not the reason behind the desire.

Where can you apply the 5 why's? Could you apply them today? This week or you needed them last week?


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