Five Whys and Two Hows to Understand a Problem

Five Why's and Two How's to Understand a Problem

The first step to solve a problem is to define and understand the problem. This management tool (5W2H) helps in understanding the problem and creating an action plan.

In an attempt to understand the problem, and to prepare an action steps, ask these questions: 

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • How Much?

Application (When to use?):

5W2H is an information-gathering technique to understand the problem and to prepare the action plan.

Example to understand a problem:

  • Who provides you with this information?
  • What do you do after getting the required information?
  • Why you made this particular choice?
  • Where do you store the material?
  • At what phase of the process, you inspect the product? (When)
  • How do you decide whether the results are acceptable?
  • How many samples do you take during the final inspection? (or How much)

Sample 5W2H Action Plan (for example, when receiving material):

  • Who provides you with this information? - The supplier provides the information electronically.
  • What do you do after getting the required information? - Receiving Manager ensures that the staff is available to receive, check and unload the material.
  • Why you made this particular choice? - The process ensures that the material does not need to wait for more than 30 minutes for unloading.
  • Where do you store the material? - Material is stored in the warehouse.
  • At what phase of the process, you inspect the product? (When) - Material is inspected on receipt. No inspection is performed at the supplier location as this supplier is a reliable supplier.
  • How do you decide whether the results are acceptable? - Acceptance Sampling is used to determine the number of items to be inspected and the acceptance/rejection criteria.
  • How many samples do you take during the final inspection? (or How much) - Acceptance Sampling standard ANSI/ASQ Z1.4 is used.

5W1H

At some places, this tool is called 5W1H, which includes Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?

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