5 Why's

Dive deep into the root cause of the problem you are trying to solve rather than focusing on the apparent, surface-level problem that presents itself.


  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes
  • Team: Facilitator, Note-taker, Stakeholders

Why should we do this exercise?

This exercises helps us to identify the root cause of the problem we are trying to solve, rather than the apparent surface-level problem. Solving the root cause should be the goal of any Sprint or new product as it creates a better product with fewer wasted resources so it is absolutely crucial to know what your root problem is. Check out the example below to see exactly what we mean.


  1. Write down a specific problem.
  2. Ask the team to individually write down why that is happening.
  3. Form a new problem from the answers the team gave.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 four more times or as much as necessary.
  5. Analyse the results and form relationships between answers.


  • This can be a difficult process to follow if you have spent a lot of time trying to solve a surface level problem. Try to keep an open mind and be willing to look at the problem on a deeper level.


The vehicle will not start. (the problem)

  • Why? - The battery is dead. (first why)
  • Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
  • Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
  • Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why)
  • Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)

Had we not followed this process we may have spent time trying to improve the battery life of the vehicle. However, after using the 5 Why's we know it was a maintenance issue that caused the battery to fail so the problem we may now try to solve is: "How can we make sure our customers maintain their vehicles according to the correct service schedule?" The solutions to this root problem are vastly different to those of the initial dead battery problem.