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By asking “why” at least 5 times you could solve any problem.

There are hundreds of tools out there that can be used to pinpoint why a particular problem exists; and by coming to a viable conclusion that a problem exist, you are able to adequately tackle it. One of such tool is the 5-Whys Root Cause Analysis tool.

When To Use It

It is obvious that the best time to examine why a problem is occurring is when you have recognized that a problem indeed exist. The 5-Whys enables the investigator to think beyond obvious and comfortable answers and reflect on less obvious explanations or causes.

When Not To Use It

If you don't know or haven't realized that a problem exists, the 5-Whys tools is not for you to use. To effectively use the tool, you must have already come to the realization that something is wrong and that it poses a problem. It is only then that you can effectively use the 5-Whys to get to the bottom of why that problem exist.

How Is It Done

1. State the problem you have identified as a strategic problem to work on.

  • PROBLEM: Monrovia smells and has grown less green than it was 2 years ago.

2. Start asking “why” related to the problem and continue doing so in response to each suggested cause.

  1. WHY? Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) does not pick up garbage from the street receptacles regularly.

  2. WHY? There are inadequate garbage collectors and equipment.

  3. WHY? Time that supposed to be used to increase number of garbage collectors and equipment is spent on party politics.

  4. WHY? MCC leadership’s role in party politics is more critical than at the City Corporation because role in Party’s politics is the security and qualification for the staying on the job at City Corporation.

  5. WHY? That’s how the MCC is run.

You get the idea, right? Ask as many “whys” as you need in order to get insight at a level that can be addressed (asking five whys is typical). You will know you have reached your final “why‟ because it does not make logical sense to ask why again.

At the point of the 5th “why” you would have understood why keeping Monrovia clean is less of a priority than stakes in party politics. For political observers, this is a rather an unusual application of the tool. But the rational here is to demonstrate how the 5-Whys can be used.

3. Indicate a possible solution:

  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: We need a national framework that would prioritize merits over partisanship because it is only through such a strategy that we can have the right people in the right places at the right time.


Caution: If your last answer is something you can’t control, go back up to the previous answer and apply the most befitting reason. Note that your final answer cannot be because of a person.

Reminder: You don’t want to list 5 different reasons; you want to go deep on one reason.

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