The primary purpose is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why” five times according to a predefined problem.

Not all problems have a single root cause why ‘The 5 Whys’ can help explore the root cause.


Tips to include participants who are not able to:


If the participants are blind or can not read, the template could be read out loud.


If the participant can not control movements the method could be read out loud.


If the participant can not hold on to a pen the method could be read out loud.


If the participant can not write it could be said out loud.


If the participant can not speak sign language or other symbol language could be used.



A defined problem needed to be examined.


The root cause of the problem. Potential multiple root causes.




15 minutes




communication, writing, complex thinking

Step by step:

  1. Divide the participants in groups of two.

  2. Hand out templates where you have filled in the situation/problem.

  3. Ask the participants to fill out the template by first reading the problem. Secondly the participants should ask themselves ‘why’ and come up with an answer. Asking ‘why’ 5 times will provide the participants with the root cause of the problem/situation (5-10 min).

  4. Show an example of how to use the method to make it more clear for the participants what to do. The example should not relate to the scope of the workshop ensuring you are not priming your participants (2 min).

  5. Ask each group to present their 5 whys (1-2 min per group).

When doing this method you should consider:

When the participants are filling in the template, walk around and observe their conversations. Both to ensure that they have understood the task but also to hear and note down valuable points that arise through their discussion. The participants are not told to white down anything besides the whys, why it is important to note down their argumentation. 

The last answer points to a process that indicates the root cause for the problem. The question ‘Why’ could be taken to a 6th, 7th or even higher level although five iterations is usually sufficient enough.  

Materials needed:

Template and pens