5 Whys Analysis
Whether you use it in a post-mortem or simply to explore a problem space, 5 whys analysis helps you get at the root cause of a problem, and think about what part of the problem you're really there to solve.
USE THIS PLAY TO...
Give your team a robust understanding of a problem and its impact.
Uncover blindspots, tease out assumptions, and decide what part of a problem space you're going to tackle.
If you're struggling with Health Monitor, running this play might help.or on your
1 - 10
Running the play
5 whys analysis is a great way to understand a customer problem and figure out which aspects your team can work on. It's also useful for root-cause exploration after an incident – but it's not about throwing people under the bus.
A4 / letter-size paper
Markers or pens
Form a problem statement (5 min)
Poll the room (if you're doing this with your team) and ask them what problem you're here to analyse. Write all responses down on a whiteboard.
Be ready for intentional and unintentional bias in the answers you discuss here. Make sure the room doesn't try to steer away from an uncomfortable truth, or try to reach an easy consensus.
If there isn't one clear problem, you'll need to agree on which problem to work on – which on it's own should be pretty revealing! Once you're agreed, write the succinct problem statement on the board.
Basic 5 whys analysis (15 min)
Ask the questions: "Why is / are / does [your problem statement]?" Write your answer(s) below the problem statement. These becomes your second problem statement.
Ask again: "Why is / are / does [your second problem statement]?" Write those responses below the second row.
You get the idea... keep going until you've asked "why" five or more times, even if it feels awkward and facetious. Most of the time we don't think hard enough about the factors behind problems, so keep pushing until you feel like you're at the root of the problem.
Here's some 5 whys analysis output from one of our customer support teams.
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.
Instead of asking "Why is / are / does [your problem statement]?", ask: "What happens when [your problem statement]?" Framing the question this way reveals the effects(s) of a problem on customers or your team. This is really helpful when you need to brainstorm solutions.
Keep your question "chain" handy. It's good food for thought, and good for sense-checking progress in the project. E.g., half-way into the project, are you still solving the problem that you agreed upon?
Transfer the problem to an experience canvas or project poster, if you're working on one. Write the problem you're tackling in the 'Problem' section, and use that to help you build out the rest of the canvas or poster.
Want even more Playbook?
Drop your email below to be notified when we add new Health Monitors and plays.
Drop a question or comment on the Atlassian Community site.