The purpose of this paper is to go a step further from the traditional 5 Whys technique by adding three more legs during the root cause analysis stage – occurrence, human and systemic issues that contribute toward the problem, hence the term 3 × 5 Whys. Performing individual 5 Whys for these three components enables to identify deeper root cause(s) that may spawn across multiple groups within an organization.
Cause-and-effect analysis used during traditional root cause investigations within an 8D or Lean six sigma project is used as a theoretical foundation. Examples from different industries are presented showing the 3 × 5 Why’s framework and advantages it brings to the organization along with identifying shortcomings and suggestions to make it more effective.
If properly used this integrated methodology will reveal higher order systemic causes (e.g. policies or management decisions) stemming from lower lever symptoms (e.g. defective parts, procedural errors). Effective execution of this methodology can provide tremendous results in defect reduction, yield improvement, operational efficiency improvement and logistics management type of projects. Resolving higher level sources of problems allows an organization to evolve itself and maintain a competitive edge in the market.
Adopting this quality management technique in start-up companies entails some challenges and other implications have been discussed with SWOT analysis.
Examples from various sectors using 3 × 5 Why approach have been presented that show that this methodology provides deeper insight into root causes which could be affecting multiple groups in an organization. Using this technique effectively is found to be beneficial to resolve issues in operations management, logistics, supply chain, purchasing, warehouse operations, manufacturing, etc.
This methodology has a human component which often results in some sort of resistance as not all working professionals think alike when it comes to accountability and ownership of issues. This may hinder root cause analysis and subsequent corrective actions implementation.
This study is unique in its in-depth real-world case studies demonstrating the need for taking a deep dive approach to root cause analysis by understanding specific, system and human components responsible for causing the failure mode.
The author would like to express gratitude toward manufacturing, field service operations, global production support management at Lam Research for their inputs.
Corrigendum: It has come to the attention of the publisher that Prashant Gangidi, (2018) “A systematic approach to root cause analysis using 3 × 5 why’s technique”, published in the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 10 No. 1, did not fully attribute a number of sources drawn upon in the paper. These were:
3 Legged 5 Why’s Analaysis’, (2009) steering solutions services corp, www.scribd.com/presentation/135077938/5-Why-s
Five Why’s – How to do it better’, (2007), https://web.archive.org/web/20071102221507/http://www.critical-thinking.com/five-whys-how-to-do-it-better
Sandesh. A. and Pawan. C., ‘First Pass Yield Improvement by Eliminating Base Plug Leakage in Feed Pump Manufacturing’ (2014), International Journal of Science and Research, Volume 2, Issue 3, www.ijsr.net/archive/v3i7/MDIwMTQxMjQx.pdf
Eric Ries, ‘The Five Why’s for Start-Ups’, (2010), Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2010/04/the-five-whys-for-startups
A D Livingston, G Jackson & K Priestley, ‘Root causes analysis: Literature review: Contract Research Report 325/2001’, (2001), WS Atkins Consultants Ltd, Health and Safety Executive, www.hse.gov.uk/research/crr_pdf/2001/crr01325.pdf
The author guidelines for the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma clearly state that sources drawn upon in the paper must be fully attributed. The author sincerely apologises for this.
Gangidi, P. (2019), "A systematic approach to root cause analysis using 3 × 5 why’s technique", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 295-310. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLSS-10-2017-0114Download as .RIS
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