1 min read

The "5-Why" Method

Initially developed by Sakichi Toyoda, this is a simple yet powerful technique for finding the root cause of a present problem. Doing so enables me to fix the underlying problem instead of the symptoms.

This method, which I heard of first in Eric Ries's "The Lean Startup", is as easy as asking "Why?" five times, starting with the initial problem:


Why am I far away from my goals?
Because I am not able to make them become a reality.

Why?
Because I don't sit down to work on them or get distracted after a few minutes.

Why?
Because it never feels to be the right time to work on things.

Why?
Because there is always something better to do, something I'd rather spend my time on.

Why?
Because I am addicted to the consumption of content. My brain craves dopamine from my phone, social media, YouTube, Reddit, and video games - the things that keep me from my goals.


The above is an example from a 5-why analysis I did during my most important flight, and while it might seem a bit extreme, it helped me start with digital minimalism and got me on the right path for a more productive day. 5-Whys can be used not only by individuals but works well with any problem, including significant, company-wide challenges.

I recommended reading the chapter in "The Lean Startup" for a comprehensive introduction to how to use the 5-Why method in teams, and the following video is a good start as well:

The 5 Whys
Eric Ries, entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, explains how to find the human causes of technical problems.