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5 Whys Analysis

Go beyond surface-level symptoms and avoid acting on assumptions. Uncover the root cause of a problem as a team.

Pencil icon
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
30-60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-8
People floating around 5 boxes

5 Whys Analysis

Go beyond surface-level symptoms and avoid acting on assumptions. Uncover the root cause of a problem as a team.

People floating around 5 boxes
Pencil
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
30-60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-8

5 Whys Analysis

Go beyond surface-level symptoms and avoid acting on assumptions. Uncover the root cause of a problem as a team.

Pencil icon
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
30-60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-8
People floating around 5 boxes

5 Whys in action

This software team uses Confluence to find the root cause of an increase in customer support calls.

A non-profit team uses Trello to uncover why a digital fundraising campaign fell short of their goal.

An executive team worked in Miro to uncover why the new CTO they hired is a poor fit for the company.

What you'll need

Remote

Video conferencing with screen sharing

Digital collaboration tool (see templates)

In-person

Whiteboard

Markers

Timer

Optional templates

Atlassian Templates
Other Templates

Instructions for running this Play

1. Prep 5 min

Come prepared with a problem statement. It can be something your team is currently facing, or something that happened in the past that needs to be addressed.

For remote teams, create a collaboration document (see optional templates above) and share with the team in advance.

For in-person teams, label a whiteboard with the following columns:

Problem statement 1

Problem statement 2

Problem statement 3

Problem statement 4

Problem statement 5

How can we solve it?

2. Set the stage 5 min

Let your team know the following at the start of the meeting:

  • We’ll be digging deep to get to the bottom of a problem
  • We’re here to investigate, not to blame
TIP: CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

The 5 Whys Analysis Play works best in a culture that encourages curiosity and learning from mistakes. This kind of environment prevents it from turning into a blame game.

3. Brainstorm 5 min

For your initial problem statement, ask the team, “Why did this happen?

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Have your team add their own answers on the collaboration document or on the whiteboard.

TIP: ASK A DIFFERENT WAY
  • What caused [problem]?
  • What led to [problem]?
  • What are the conditions under which [problem] occurred?
  • What contributed to [problem]?

4. Choose 1 min

As a team, choose one of the answers to dive into as your next problem statement. Replace your initial problem statement with this one.

TIP: TAKE A VOTE

Vote on problem statements to move forward with. Try Trello Voting Power-Up or have the team add +1 to their chosen statements.

5. Repeat 25 min

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’ve asked “why?” a total of 5 times.

TIP: THE FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT WHYS

If you still haven’t scratched the surface, keep asking “why” until the team agrees you’ve hit a meaningful level of root cause.

6. Propose solutions 10 min

Once you’ve gotten to the point of root cause, have team members propose solutions to your final problem statement. Choose just one or two solutions to pursue, assign an owner to each solution, and determine when the team can expect to hear back from the owners.


Follow-up

Capture all notes

Post your notes from the session in a place where the whole team can see.

Track it

Add the problem statement as a work item to your team’s work board, such as in Jira or Trello.

Check in

Ensure you’re checking in on the progress of the proposed solutions at the agreed upon time.

Variations

Breakout

After the first brainstorming step, instead of voting on one problem statement, have the group break out into teams, one for each problem statement. Then follow the rest of the Play in teams to see what root cause each team ends up with.


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Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

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