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5 Why vs 5W2H

Go to solution Solved by Vivek Dahake,

5 Why (or Why Why Analysis) is a tool used to identify the root cause of a problem by repeatedly asking the question 'Why'.


5W2H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How and How much) is a structured approach to problem solving that helps in gathering basic information about the problem and/or creating a comprehensive action plan.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Vivek Dahake on 5th Feb 2021.


Applause for all the respondents - Jayanth Sura, Vivek Dahake.


Q 336. 5 Why and 5W2H are two problem solving techniques that are often confused with each other. Highlight the differences between the two using an example.



Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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5Why and 5W2H are both used in problem solving techniques, but they are different in terms of their purpose and phases where they are used in problem solving work flow.


* Over all understanding of these tool - 


5W2H - It is a tool used in problem definition analysis, wherein multiple guiding questions like What, Where, When, Who, Why, How and How-much, are asked to gather all relevant information of problem. With this information team can see the exact nature of problem, and can then state it in precise terms. It is kind of problem assessment tool.


5Why - It is tool used in Root cause analysis. It is a series of interlinked "Why" questions asked one after another to reach to root of problem from symptoms of the problem. It gives team a chance to act upon a right & deeper cause, which will solve the problem from its re-occurrence instead of only surface actions



* Purpose - 

5W2H -

  1. To find out all important information about a problem so that SMART defination of a problem can be made.
  2. To define what is problem, and what is not problem.
  3. To limit the scope of problem solving.
  4. To get 360 degree view of the problem.

5Why -

  1. To find out the exact root 'cuase' of 'problem' by finding the exact chain of relationship between them
  2. To solve the problem permanently from its roots
  3. To eliminate the re-occurrence of problem

Where to use it -

5W2H -It is generally used at the start of problem solving in "Define" phase of problem solving work flow or a DMAIC six sigma project, while forming the 'problem statement' in that phase. 
It problem is well defined considering all directions, If problem is well understood by the team then, problem is half solved, means team will properly direct their next steps.

5Why - 5Why is used generally at the "Analysis" phase of problem solving work flor or a DMAIC six sigma project, while forming the 'problem statement' in that phase. 



* How to use it - Examples

5W2H -

What - What is the problem? - Operator got injured on shop floor
Where - Where is the problem? - In machine shop near machine number 4 & 5
When - When is the problem? - 2 Accidents happened in multiple shifts (1st shift as well as 3rd) in last 8 days
Who- Who is involved in the problem phenomenon? - 2 machine operators working on machine were the affected persons, one slipped and injured, another slipped but did not got injured
Why is the problem - probably floor conditions are not as per standard and slippages happening due to oil seen on shop floor as reported by shift supervisor
How - How is problem happening? While working on machine operator has to take few steps to pick the parts and while doing it, he slipped down and got the elbow injury on right hand, in second case operator slipped but did not got injury
How-much - How many incidences? there are total 2 incidences reported in last 8 days

5Why - 

1 Why - Why we see this as a problem - Because one machine operator got injured which is reportable safety issue 
2 Why - (Why Machine operator got injured?) Because he slipped from slippery shop floor
3 Why - (Why he slipped from slippery shop floor?) Because shop floor has oil spillage, reported by supervisor
4 Why - (Why shop floor has oil spillage?) Because drain outlet seal of oil tank of machine has leakage, seen by team
5 Why - (Why drain outlet of oil tank of machine has leakage?) Because seal was not replace during preventive maintenance (PM), verified by team
Like this we can go further deeper like "why seal is not replaced in PM - because it was not defined in PM checklist, etc 
....And action (actionable/feasible/economical Action) should be taken on Root Cause which is the last Cause of this chain.


~ Vivek Dahake

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5 Why Vs 5W2H:-


Both 5Why and 5W2H are very powerful management tools used for " root cause analysis" and "business process implementation"  respectively.


These two tools are bit confusing in understanding for lerners. however we and overcome the same by understanding the purpose of each tool as shown below.


5 Why     -      Used for root cause analysis by asking questions starting "WHY".

                                         (Why --> Why--> Why-->Why-->Why)

                        5 Why is a reactive tool to analyze the root cause of a failure. 


5W2H     -       Used for process implementation or an administrative activity.

                              -->   5 'W' are    1. What      2. Why    3. Where    4. When    5. Who

                              -->   2 'H'  are    1.  How     2. How much

                        5W2H is a proactive tool to plan and organize any process / activity implementation. 


Example:- Scenario:- Sales of milk products has dropped by 25% in the last quarter of this year.


5 Why will help to understand the root cause as mentioned below.

  • Why sales has dropped -
    • sales of flavored milk has dropped by 30%
  • Why sales of flavored milk has dropped by 30%   
    • 60 % of the sub dealers sales has dropped
  • Why sub dealers sales has dropped by 60%          
    •     Sub dealers are preferring to buy from different suppliers.
  • Why sub dealers are buying from other suppliers
    • Competitors has introduced a new flavored lebon (buttermilk) which is attracting the customer base.

So from the above 5 Why analysis, with just 4 questions (4 Whys), the root cause of flavored milk sales drop has been identified. 

Top management has then worked with R&D team to come up with counter plan. 


R&D team has come up with the proposal of introducing flavored Yoghurt (curd) as a new product. 


In this scenario, the R& D team can use 5W2H tool to present the new plan to the top management  as follows


--> What               -   What will be done to encounter the competitors plan (Action plan)

--> Why                 -    Why will it be done   - Justification of the plan

--> Where             -    Where will it be done  - Ideal location to implement the new product

--> When              -     When will it be done   -  timelines

-->  Who                -     Who will do this           -   Responsibilities for action


-->  How                -     How Will it be done     -    Process flows  and procedures

-->  How much      -     How much will it cost to introduce the new product  -  Cost & budget


So the R&D team will submit the proposal in approved format for top management approval. in this way 5W2H will give a very clear plan of the process / activity (in this example it is a new product launch).

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