How to Execute ‘Five Whys’ Analysis in Production: A Step-by-Step Guide

Introduction to ‘Five Whys’ Analysis

The ‘Five Whys’ Analysis is a cornerstone of Lean Manufacturing, renowned for its simplistic yet powerful approach to problem-solving. Originating in the automotive industry, this technique involves asking ‘why’ five times to uncover the root cause of a problem, enabling manufacturers to implement effective, long-term solutions. It demands deeper inquiry beyond symptoms, seeking clarity and insight at each questioning level.

Applying the ‘Five Whys’ to various manufacturing issues, such as production line faults, quality dips, or delivery delays, illuminates underlying issues, paving the way for substantial and sustained improvements in manufacturing processes.

The Core Principles

The ‘Five Whys’ Analysis in Lean Manufacturing, pioneered by Toyota, involves a deep, iterative questioning process to identify a problem’s root cause. It’s about asking ‘why’ multiple times to find the core issue, like a child’s curiosity. It’s human-centric, focusing on understanding human and procedural factors in a blame-free environment. Problems are viewed as growth opportunities, enhancing efficiency. Teamwork is essential, with group analysis offering diverse insights and continuous improvement. Documenting each step is crucial for knowledge preservation and future issue prevention, driving operational excellence.

Key Steps for ‘Five Whys’ Analysis

  1. Team Formation: Assemble a diverse team to investigate the problem.
  2. Problem Definition: Clearly articulate the issue for analysis.
  3. First Why: Start by asking why the problem occurred and document responses.
  4. Subsequent Whys: Continue asking ‘why’ to find the root cause.
  5. Develop Countermeasures: Propose solutions addressing the root cause.
  6. Implementation and Monitoring: Apply solutions and monitor effectiveness.
  7. Iterate as Needed: Refine the approach for continuous improvement.

This approach ensures a collaborative, thorough examination of issues, enhancing operations and efficiency.

Maximizing the Benefits

  • Whole Team Participation: Encourage diverse inputs from all team levels for broader insights.
  • Methodical Approach: Standardize the process with clear protocols for analysis and implementation.
  • Open Communication Culture: Foster an environment where team members can freely express thoughts.
  • Supporting Data Use: Complement analysis with quantitative data for concrete solutions.
  • Continuous Learning Incorporation: Document and share lessons from each session for broader organizational learning.
  • Link to Wider Lean Initiatives: Integrate ‘Five Whys’ with other lean tools for systemic improvement.

By following these guidelines, organizations can use ‘Five Whys’ to gain profound insights and advance operationally, streamlining processes and enhancing productivity in lean manufacturing.

Five Whys Do's and Don'ts


  • Start with a clear problem.
  • Ask "why" five times.
  • Involve diverse team members.
  • Document answers and insights.
  • Develop actionable countermeasures.


  • Assign blame to individuals.
  • Stop at superficial causes.
  • Overlook data and evidence.
  • Ignore team's diverse perspectives.
  • Neglect follow-up and monitoring.

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