Use of the 5 Whys can help most managers and business owners become more successful.
Consider this typical business problem: Despite hard work, long hours, and lots of money spent, a business is not growing in the way the owner or leadership need or want. (Ideally, this problem is defined more specifically with a solid target in mind. But, even if it's not, systematic problem solving will help get better results.)
When faced with a situation like this, do you or your managers tend to ask "What do we do next?", or do your conversations center around "Why is this happening?"
Most tend to want to do something. The great ones pause to figure out what to do. This happens either formally or informally using the word "why". The 5 Whys as a tool gives structure to this way of thinking.
There is nothing fancy here. The difference is subtle. But the results can be huge.
You begin by asking "why". Then ask it again. And again. Usually at least five times. Sometimes more.
It took more than 5 Whys, but hopefully you can see how the result and corrective action changed dramatically the further the root cause analysis went. Not unusually, this approach yielded a more measurable and lower cost solution to implement.
Good problem solving in business often requires good communication. This technique starts the conversation and keeps it going in a non-threatening way. As you can see in the example above, even when the root cause was related to staff performance, it focused on a process that could easily be corrected. There is a reason why this technique is called the 5 Whys and not the 5 Whos.