How To Solve Problems With The 5 Whys Method

How to solve problems of different nature following a single reliable method? Kiichiro Toyoda , the founder of Toyota, to understand how to solve problems he used a system he himself devised: the 5 whys method .

It is not possible to separate the process of solving a problem from researching the why of things. Before finding a way to solve the problem we need to understand its nature and origin. In the vast majority of cases, when we fail to solve a problem, it is because we have not understood it, we have not identified its origin and therefore we are not asking the right question. If we don’t ask ourselves the right question, it is clear that the answer will not be found. Once the situation is framed correctly, however, the answer will come with relative ease and, if we fail to find how to solve the problem, it will not have been due to lack of understanding on our part, but because the problem is actually very difficult to solve.

A Map To Solve A Problem

Since the problems we face are of a very different nature from each other, we might think that their resolution must necessarily go through very different procedures, but this is not the case. The map for solving the problems is roughly always the same.

In any type of problem to be solved, the first thing we need to do is identify and describe the symptom. What are we worried about? What prevents us from doing what we want?

A problem can be both technical and personal in nature, but technical problems can manifest themselves as emotional symptoms and vice versa. Even if the problem is of a technical nature, the first alarm bell could be a nuisance, or a sadness, in short, the feeling that something is wrong. In any case, we cannot stop at this point, because the negative emotion we feel is not the real problem, but a signal that lets us know that something is not going as it should. From there you have to dig deeper to find what the root of the problem really is .

The 5 Whys To Solve Problems

Toyoda used to say that you have to ask yourself “why” five times before you can focus on the real source of a problem. In practice they could be more or less, the concept is that you don’t have to stop at the first answer. In the example above, the negative feeling is not the problem, it is the first symptom that attracts our attention. But why do we feel angry? Why do we feel disappointed? Sometimes the answer is obvious, other times it isn’t, but that answer, which identifies the cause of that feeling, allows us to go one step deeper. But that’s not enough.

As much as we may have identified the reason for our sensation, this still may not identify the problem at all. We must therefore ask ourselves why a second time: if we have a bad feeling about a particular event, why did that event happen? Why did it shake us like that? What is the cause? We must continue to go deeper and deeper and ask ourselves “why” over and over again, until we reach the true cause of it all. At that point we have real knowledge of the state of things and can solve problems.

Solving Problems: An Example

You arrived late for work. This is a problem, but if you want it to stop happening you need to understand that being late was actually caused by another problem. Why are you late? Because the alarm did not go off. But why didn’t the alarm go off? Because the batteries have run out. Why did the batteries run out? Because the alarm clock does not have a warning system that indicates that the batteries are running low. So the solution to the “I’m late for work” problem is to buy an alarm clock that warns you when the batteries are low or that you can plug it in.

This action will root out the problem of being late, running to work, getting picked up by your boss, and maybe missing an important meeting.

It is important to understand what the real origin of the problem is in order to really solve it. Solving problems without going to the root of the matter leads to false solutions, which in the long run do not work or which are expensive or unreliable. For example, you might try to remember to change the batteries periodically. Beyond the effort of having to remember a trifle like that, you risk forgetting it anyway. Or you might have a second alarm clock back up, a redundant and unnecessarily complex solution.

How To Solve The Problems Of Life

The technical problems that concern things, are in some ways easier to solve, because it is more likely that our feelings and our ego does not get in the way preventing us from recognizing the reality of things and go deeper in search root of the problem.

Solving problems of a personal nature has the complication of having to deal with difficult emotions and sometimes having to recognize realities that hurt, but it follows the same path through the method of the 5 whys.

The question “why?” it reminds us that everything must exist for a reason and sets our analytical skills in motion. Why do I do this? Why does it matter? Why do I behave the way I do? Solving problems means not putting efforts into an activity that has no reason for being, it means learning from our mistakes and, in the face of an initial commitment, it means making our life easier over time.

If you want to know more about problem solving, read this article: Problem solving – the art of finding when asked

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