The “Five Whys”
I learned about this many moons ago, when I was involved with technical support. The basic principle is that the observed symptoms are almost never what are really causing the issue and therefore, they are not the right thing to focus on to solve. It is rather self explanatory, but it kind of goes like:
- Issue: I am hungry.
- Because I did not eat my lunch at school.
- I did not want the other kids to see my cucumber and vinegar sandwich.
- I would have felt bad if they would make fun of me.
- I would like to fit in.
- I am not confident enough to brush things like this off.
As you can see, it can work in situations outside of the technical support realm and can help dig into the really important stuff, or like we say, the “root cause” of the issue.
Five whys, but Why five? Well, the need for recursiveness of the question is obvious, and five times just seems to be the appropriate number of times that in most cases we start to run out of easy answers, sometimes we even start to get into the uncomfortable underlying reasons.