5 Why’s Approach to Problem Solving

As an employee, we will encounter some problems while trying to successfully deliver our projects.

At times, the solutions easily come to mind. At other times, we may need to consult our leaders on how to best address the issues at hand. However, there are times where we get stuck, as if there is no other alternative to save the project from collapsing.

Before we cry in self-despair and get scolded by our boss for failing that project, take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and go back to addressing the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here’s one approach to problem solving that you can use to help you find the solution.

5 whys to problem solving

5 Why’s approach

Let’s have an imaginative problem: The car will not start.

  1. Why? –  The battery is dead. (This is the first why.)
  2. Why? –  The alternator is not functioning. (This is the second why.)
  3. Why? –  The alternator belt is broken. (This is the third why.)
  4. Why? –  The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (This is the fourth why.)
  5. Why? –   I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (This is the fifth why, a root cause.)
  6. Finally,  establish why? –  Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of my vehicle. (This is the sixth why, optional footnote.)

After you have answered all 5 Why’s, make a conclusive solution to the problem:  I will start maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule.

By asking yourself 5 Why’s every time you encounter a problem, you will be more likely to determine the root of the problem, which will then increase your chances of finding the right solutions.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.


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