Adopting the five Whys technique as a mindset in other aspects of your life
“The basis of Toyota’s scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem. By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”
— Taiichi Ohno
The Five Whys technique has been present for a long time and a means for solving cause and effect situations. And the analogy is that, if while working, an error occurs, then asking why the error happened and adding four more whys (totalling five) to the subsequent answers will most likely expose the root cause of the problem. However, we want to look at how we can use the Five Whys technique, not only as a problem-solving technique for finding the root cause of a mistake or an error but how we can use it to determine the root cause of some of our actions or desires that prompt us to take those actions.
Why the need? We often do things or think that we want certain things for a reason, only to realize after doing it or acquiring what we desired that what we thought was the reason was not. Likewise, the thing we desired so much and may have been even desperate to acquire them, and then we realized that we didn’t need them as much as we thought. This stage is where the adoption of the Five Whys becomes significant.
An example is when you keep clamouring and applying for a raise or promotion and might even go to great lengths to get it; the five Whys will show you your true intentions. For an illustration, Drew is a hardworking man who works in a firm as a personal assistant to the owner. Suddenly, he, who is usually content with what he has, applies for a raise. Our task will be to analyze why he wants the raise.
The answer he gives to the first why is because he needs more money. However, that answer is vague, and after all, he earns a pretty decent sum hence the second why. He says because he wants a bigger house. Asking why again and he replies; because he wants to have a family. Asking why again brings out an inner reason when he replies that he feels his life is incomplete. And by the fifth why, you already know the kind of person Drew is, his ideals and goals when he answers that success has a happy and healthy family.
Therefore, Drew wanted a raise, not because he wanted more money, which was his initial answer; it was a means to an end in his success journey. Similarly, adopting these five whys technique to your goals or aspirations will give show you if they are worth pursuing after all.