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Sunday, July 10, 2011

5 Whys

5 Whys is a very important techniques a BA could use to determine the root cause of any problem faced by the organization, the critical element to this technique is to challenge the underlying assumptions business has for any given problem, this technique is very simple and works very well in a heterogeneous group setting.

There are basically three steps to conducting a 5 Whys technique:

1. Invite all the stakeholder who are aware and/or affected by the problem.
2. Write down the problem at hand, now ask the first “WHY” question to the group. Why do you think this is happening? Chances are that the group may come up with few answers. Write down all the answers below the question, make sure you do not discard any answers.
3. Now repeat the above step four more times for every answer going one level down, make sure you write the answer below the earlier answer.

This technique does not mandate you to ask the question 5 times, but it is generally believed that it usually takes about 5 levels to get to the root cause of the problem, you may ask less question or more depending upon the problem. Make sure that the current assumptions are challenged and the group does not stop at the symptoms, remember the goal is to find the root cause of the problem so in theory stop asking why only when the group cannot answer any further. Document all the answers in plain English (business language), avoid any technical jargons. As a BA (and moderator) in the meeting make sure that the purpose of the meeting is to learn and improve and not to blame and vent out.

Some of the advantages of this technique are
- Easy to understand by business and technical people alike
- No need of any special tool

Always remember if you do not ask the right question you will never get the right answer. I will leave you with a very interesting and relavant quote.

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” - African proverb

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