IDEA - Tools

Five Whys - Technique


The Five Whys and the Drill Down Technique are two methods to identify and understand the root causes of problems that hold up a growing business. Both have the advantage of being simple and easy to use. The idea is to use constant questioning to move beyond a surface problem to identify the root causes of an issue.


How the Five Whys Work

1. The group leader writes down the problem then asks why that problem happened. The word “Why?” is used to open up the problem so that its essential elements can be treated individually and in a manageable way.


2. When someone offers a solution, the leader than asks why that event happened. He or she then queries the cause of that event and so on until the root cause is identified and a solution becomes clear.


3. Although the method is called the Five Whys the number of questions that need to be asked to solve a problem may be larger or smaller than five.



The website of Company A has high traffic flow but receives few requests for quotes.

1. Problem: The website has a low conversion rate - Why?

2. The team’s IT leader points out that actually few people even reach the quote page. The bounce rate of 73 percent means that only a small portion of visitors moves past the home page.

3. The team leader writes on the board: The bounce rate is 73 percent - Why?

The sales manager then points out that for the last few months, most of the sales department’s efforts have focused on contacts made at conferences rather than through the keyword-targeted advertising or search engine optimization that the site was originally built for.

4. The team leader writes on the board: Sales targets don’t match website targets - Why?

That question could then lead to a discussion of the relative merits of conference contacts over SEO marketing and a decision to either change the direction of the sales team or to redesign the website.