Explaining The Six Sigma 5 Whys

August 31, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Six Sigma 5 Whys is a problem solving tool that helps to get to the root of a problem much easier than most people are able to naturally achieve without the process. The basic idea is to ask “Why?” whenever a problem is encountered. Typically, the initial response will not trace back to the root of the problem it will only be a symptomatic representation of the overall issue. When the answer to the first question is given, then a second Why is asked of that answer as well.

While there is no hard and fast rule that you must ask Why? five times, it is usually a good idea to go at least that far. In many cases, one will need to ask Why? more than five times in order to find the real root cause. The reason for making this such a priority is to identify the real problem of an issue in order to fix the problem in all of its permutations once, instead of fixing many different surface problems that the major underlying problem is causing.

If this is not done, then the solution created will really not solve the initial compliant and time and money will have been wasted. This process is one method utilized that does not necessarily require that data be gathered or metrics be defined and the resultant analysis that is commonplace within Six Sigma. While it does not preclude such data mining, neither does it require it.

In some cases, a simple explanation of Six Sigma 5 Whys will not be enough to help others understand it fully. As such, examples must be given to exemplify the entire process and how it helps to trace to the root of the situation instead of diagnosing and focusing primarily upon a symptomatic occurrence, which if repaired will not eliminate the malfunction.

By way of example, you might receive a complaint that customers are complaining about the receipt of merchandise that fails to meet their needs. Obviously, this could pose a large issue within any company, resulting in reduced profit margins, reduced sales, and ultimately in business failure if it is not addressed properly and quickly.

Once the dilemma has been identified, then the 5 Why process can begin. One would ask, “Why is our merchandise failing to meet customer needs?” If investigation is necessary to answer the question, then it should be done. You may find an answer as follows, “The specs that were given to the floor were different than what the customer and sales person agreed upon.”

Once this question has been answered, the next Why should be asked. “Why did the floor receive different information that what the customer ordered?” The answer could be, “The sales associate tried to speed up the process by phoning the floor to verbally relay the order. It seems there was a miscommunication between the sales associate and the floor over the phone.”

The next response, “Why was there a miscommunication between sales and the floor?” The answer, “Verbal communication is difficult on the floor with the noise levels being as loud as they are.” The process could continue until the solution is found and a procedure to ensure that the same mistake is not made in the future. While this process is not all encompassing, it will help eliminate superfluous information from being part of the solution. If the problem cannot be solved with this process, then other Six Sigma methods can be employed to determine the root cause and formulate a solution.

Aveta Solutions – Six Sigma Online (http://www.sixsigmaonline.org) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

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