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5 Whys

Identify the root cause of a problem or challenge

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About the 5 Whys template

The 5 Whys exercise is a structured and efficient approach to problem-solving. You can use it to expose the underlying reasons behind a product-related challenge or customer feedback. By iteratively asking "why" five times, you get closer to the source of the issue.

For instance, you might complete this exercise when product usage is down or you see a drop in customer engagement. It can also be useful when assessing the potential impact and value of features in your backlog. Or try it during a retrospective to uncover why something did not go as planned.

Give it a try the next time you have a thorny problem or need to make an important decision. There is value in documenting the "whys" of what did (or could) happen and giving the team a forum for discussion.

Best practices

Reflect on core challenges and solve them together.

  1. Define the problem Clearly articulate the problem or issue are you trying to address to narrow the analysis. Gather colleagues from different teams who can contribute unique perspectives to the discussion.

  2. Ask "Why?" Begin the session by asking "Why?" to identify the most obvious cause of the problem. From there, keep asking "Why?" to dig deeper and uncover the true cause. Repeat this process at least five times or until further questioning is no longer productive.

  3. Document the analysis Use this template to capture your responses. This helps you visualize the progression of causes and focus your analysis on areas that are within your control — ensuring that your efforts lead to meaningful action.

  4. Implement solutions Develop and implement appropriate solutions or corrective actions based on the identified root cause. Monitor the results to confirm the problem is adequately addressed.

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