‘5 Why”s is a lean tool that is taught by lean practicioners as a key tool in problem solving.   The crux of this skill is too keep asking  ‘why’ about something until you get to a potential root cause.   Most of us learn this long before we are introduced to lean enterpise.   Its the game we played with our parents (and dove them nuts) as we explored the world as young children.     Little did we know, we were practicing a skill that would be very useful to us in the business world.   At the risk of being obvious, the delivery should be a bit more mature as we get older.

How this works, is that each time you ask ‘why’ you peel back a layer and eventually you get to a fact that will lead you to a solution.   One of my favorite applications of this is in vetting suppliers or to prepare for negotiations.   In both of these situations, the truth may be hiding behind veils of spin and smoke.   The success of any negotiation is driven mainly by how well you prepare for it.   Knowledge is power and what you don’t know will hurt you. 

The higher the stakes the less you can take at face value and the harder you need to work to get to the truth.   Ask the same question over and over again, phrased differently and to different people over time and you’ll get to the truth.  If there is any deception or ‘spin’, the more people you ask, the more likely you’ll catch one or more that is off their guard.   Talking to those not direclty involved in planning  the negotiations can be particularly revealing.  Take this to another level by assigning someone on your team to do the same thing.


One Response to ‘5 Whys’ Isn’t Just for Lean

  1. Peter Quinn says:

    Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

    Peter Quinn

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