Multiplication Center

Working on the right problem—how asking “Why?&” five times helps define the problem

August 14, 2013

The Five Whys is a methodology developed by Toyota as part of their commitment to production excellence. The idea is that asking “Why?” five times will normally take you to the root problem that needs to be solved as opposed to solving a mere symptom of the problem.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos used this methodology when he discovered that one of his workers had badly damaged his thumb in a conveyor belt accident. Here was Bezos’ use of the Five Whys.
Why did the associate damage his thumb? Because his thumb got caught in the conveyor.
Why did his thumb get caught in the conveyor? Because he was chasing his bag, which was on a running conveyor.
Why did he chase his bag? Because he placed his bag on the conveyor, but it then turned-on by surprise.
Why was his bag on the conveyor? Because he used the conveyor as a table since there was no other place to place his bag.

In this case the root cause and ultimate culprit was a missing table…and it only took four “Whys?” though I think its appropriate to ask, “Why don’t we have any tables / space for employees to stash their personal goods?”

The Five Whys methodology is certainly not the silver bullet for solving every problem. But it is a good tool to have in the problem-solving tool kit of any ministry leader. Einstein said, “If I was given an hour to save the world, I’d spend 59 minutes on defining the problem and one minute on solving the problem.” The Five Whys help define the problem.

In October we will be convening a One-Day Experience called “Your Problem – Our Process.” To learn more about what this day could do for your church, click HERE.

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