From 5 Whys to 5 Whats and a How – solution-focused

Five Whats and a How video transcript

Recently I was working with a super smart client, and we were going through some problem-solving methodologies. 

The client brought up to five whys.

5 whys work pretty well. AND you need Five Whats and a How to catalyze innovation

As we began to go through the five whys, we were able to identify better and understand what the challenge was, why it was happening, and use the five why format to better drill into and understand the root cause. 

We then turned to the team, and the team seemed a little broken or frozen or stuck into what to do next.

At that point, my solution-focused thinking and framework snuck in there.

I will share a brief walkthrough into how we went from the five whys to create five whats and a how

To begin with, this behind me is a frame that originated from a book called Toyota Kata and starts with the following process.

  1. When you’re thinking about improvements or a process of things you want to enhance or innovate, generally, you start with defining some of the best hopes you want to achieve. And typically, once you go through to five whys or even before five whys, you express your best hopes. 
  2. How the individual situation, process structure ought to be operating, and what those aspirations look like. These are your aspirational best hopes; what do we want to have happen statements. 
  3. Once those statements are known, you look at the current conditions instead of going aggressively forward and creating future-focused goal statements. 
  4. A way to identify current conditions, I have my NOISEanalysis, which is an alternative to SWOT to say what the existing strengths of the project are? 
    • Where are the needs of the project or team? 
    • What are the opportunities? 
    • What areas for improvement exist, and how can you identify exceptions that’ll be useful to help the client and the individual or you and you’re stuck move forward. 
  5. From there, we pause and create a series of indicators of progress clues

Within these indicators of progress clues, you would go from your five whys into using the five whats and how. 

Here’s the example 

We’re going to walk through these together. The client brought up the challenge we walked through the five whys, which made them feel better because they wanted the root cause of the issue.

Once you get the root cause identified, whatever it may or may not be, you have to build solution statements or a solution bank. 

The solution statements focus on – what do we do next? What would be small indicators of success? What does better look like?

So I recommend you five why to drill down. Then you use the five whats and the how to build up.

  1. First question, what do you want or should be happening? 
  2. What’s better or improved since you investigated or ran an experiment on this challenge? 
  3. What will be different when this better is happening?
  4. What are you doing differently?
  5. What do you notice when the improvements are happening inside the system or the individual? 
  6. How did you make that happen?

You can skip the five whys. 

Somebody comes to you with a problem or a challenge you want to work on with your team, or the team says we have a more significant challenge we want to work on. You can more than likely skip the five whys altogether and avoid the root cause.

Now, some folks may think they have to know the root cause before they can move forward.

I would argue and say that you may not entirely need to know the root cause or the root cause may not be that helpful.

If you go to these questions first, and may be able to identify what’s better.

So again, you say, what do you want to have happen from this?

And once they say what they want to have happen, you create an experiment or multiple experiments. You try something.

The whole idea behind this is to work with you and your team to move from an area of root cause problem solving to a section on solution-focused solution building.

I am Mike Cardus from Organization Development by mike cardus. 

Contact me for support with your team or your organization to be more innovative, utilize their talents, and keep the talent of folks you have within your organization. Let’s make progress together.

5 Whats and a How Five Whats and a How problem solving to solution-focus with mike cardus