Wow. What a difference a week makes.

At the beginning of June, we introduced you to an important formula for success; People x Process = Performance. Last week, we got a lesson in what not to do; inadequately trained people + poorly managed testing and monitoring processes = major fall from Covid-19 grace that’s re-rattled nerves and re-introduced the very virus that saw our country locked down, hundreds of businesses shut up shop and thousands lose their jobs. It’s bad news whatever way you look at it – especially when we know it was all entirely avoidable.

If you’re asking yourself ‘why?’ Stop. And instead ask yourself something that’ll help you in your own business planning too, like: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

​​​The 5 Whys

The 5 Whys method was developed by Toyota founder, Sakichi Toyoda, and remains a part of Toyota’s Production System today. It’s put into practice every time an unexpected problem occurs and helps a business to identify the ‘invisible loss’ incurred by mishaps, by encouraging teams to identify the root cause of an issue, rather than simply fix the single problem at face value.

The 5 Whys in action

Applying the 5 Whys can reveal a totally unexpected source of a problem. According to management consultants, Kanbanize.com, oftentimes issues that are assumed to be the results of technical problem, actually turn out to be human and process errors.  See this example below.

The 5 Whys method

Image: Kanbanize.com

You can see how in this simple example, rather than an alarm clock fault, the issue was a process one.

Goodbye invisible loss

The moment you identify and deal with the root cause of any issue, you have the opportunity to improve the performance of your business by putting a stop to any invisible loss.  What profit opportunities have you been unwittingly missing out on because of the process or people errors at the heart of your business issues?

Why 5?

Don’t be fooled by the name, for the 5 Whys technique to work, you need to embrace your inner child.  Funnily enough, this surprisingly simple management technique is very similar to how children seek resolution to their questions, i.e. as soon as you give a response, they immediately want to know why the answer is the answer, you know those (often frustrating!) conversations about a banana that go on and on and on? The idea with the 5 Whys is to stay curious and only stop asking ‘why?’ when you have arrived at a probable root cause of the problem that you can address. That may be after 5 questions, or it may be after 7, or 3.