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Problem-Solving: The 5 Whys Technique

Problem-solving is a crucial tool for all business professionals. From entry-level positions all the way up to the executive suite. Problem-solving is one of the most useful and sought-after skills for employers.

Having all your employees feel empowered to be capable of problem-solving is imperative in creating an autonomous organization.

Identify the Root Cause

There are many different techniques that can be used for problem-solving, but one that we recommend is the 5 Whys technique. When a problem area is identified, you can use the 5 Whys to identify the root cause of the problem.

Once the problem's root cause is identified, the team can work to address the problem and prevent further issues.

Here’s a simple example showing how to use the 5 Whys.

Problem: Customer refuses to pay for a print job for flyers

  • Why? The order was not delivered on time and could not be used. (1st why)

  • Why? The job took longer than expected and was scheduled. (2nd why)

  • Why? Ran out of ink. (3rd why)

  • Why? The ink was used on a large, last-minute order. (4th why)

  • Why? Not enough ink on hand and unable to secure more in time. (5th why, the root cause)

In this example, either finding an ink supplier who can deliver on short notice or increasing the minimum inventory of ink on hand will prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

Once your team can successfully work on finding solutions for problems, then they can switch towards optimizing and improving processes.

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