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The power of root-cause analysis: 5’ Why

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Albert Einstein

The root-cause analysis used in business life and it is beneficial when the problem is involved with human interaction or human factor. It is a nonstatistical strategy, instrumental in identifying the root-cause of a problem as well as to determine proximity between different causes for a problem. Root-cause analysis is efficient in Six Sigma projects, and sometimes it is advantageous in analyzing consumer behavior.
The case study below demonstrates how to use 5’whys .


Donald aka Donny works in the retail company as a storeman and he is a hardworking and a cheerful person. Donny motto is to enjoy life to the fullest, and he loves to party hard and gamble a lot. His enjoyment overpowers his commitment. There are days where he loses all the money by gambling, and there are occasions he borrows money from his friends to play poker. His friends were anxious about Donny’s lifestyle. One-day Mike, Donny’s best friend advised him that he need to start saving money. However, Donny never bothers to listen or even do not care about other’s opinions. Everyday Donny commutes to work by car. It takes approximately an hour drive from home to work. He loves his car, and he also keeps it in a perfect condition. Donny ensures to service the automobile regularly. One day on the way from home to work the car stopped in the middle of the road. It was the worst day in his life, and his wallet was empty. Donny called Mike who also works along with him in the same company. Mike informed Donny that he could not come and pick him up because it was the busiest day at work. Mike told the store manager, and the company sent a taxi to pick-up Donny. Donny arrived 2hrs late to work.
The store manager was furious at Donny because the company spent $110 to pick-up Donny (Taxi fare x 2 = $ 55), and he lost 2 hours of pay ($120). Moreover, the order was late to the customer because the storemen did not get to work in time to dispatch the delivery and the customer imposed contract penalty of $35,000. Because of poor service the company lost their valuable customer and all the future income from them, roughly estimated to be $2.5 Million for the next ten years.
How to find out the root-cause of Donny’s problem? We will use the 5’why strategy, and it is the most effective strategy especially when there is a human factor or interaction involved.
Problem statement: In the middle of the road the car stopped from home to work.

1. Why did the car stop on the way from home to work?
Because it ran out of gas and the car stopped all of a sudden in the middle of road

2. Why did the gas run out?
Because Donny forgot to refuel his car, based on the case the car was in perfect condition and the only issue can be fuel gauge showed empty. He had to contact his friend Mike for help

3. Why didn’t Donny buy gas in the morning?
Evidently, Donny did not have any money with him. His wallet was empty. Donny needs to Keep a credit card in the purse.

4. Why didn’t Donny have any money?
He has a gambling habit; he might have lost all the money in a poker game. He needs to prioritize his commitments and obligations

5. Why did Donny lose cash in last night’s poker game?
When Donny does not have a good hand, he is not good at bluffing. Other players take advantage of it. Donny needs to go to poker School and become better at ‘bluffing’ because he loves gambling and Donny needs to prepare himself.

Recommended Solution: Donny needs to carry a credit card in his wallet so that he can have access to money
Other solutions: Donny needs to change his habits because his action not only affects him but also people around him. In the case we saw, his friend Mike was distraught with his behavior. The company Donny worked for incurred a massive loss.

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