Ask why like a child, 5 whys method

kid asking why

Roya Farrokhzade

4 min read
Apr 8, 2024


Hey there! Have you ever faced a problem and found it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause? Sometimes, when dealing with human-related issues, it can be tricky to identify the root of a problem. That's where the 5 Whys method comes in handy. In this blog post, we'll explore how asking "why" repeatedly can help unravel the underlying reasons behind an issue.

What is the 5 why rule?

What is the 5 Whys method? The 5 Whys is a technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. It involves asking the question "why" repeatedly to identify the root cause of an issue.

How does it work?

By asking "why" multiple times, the method aims to uncover the deeper reasons behind a problem. It helps in moving beyond the surface-level symptoms to identify the fundamental cause.

Here‘s a real story about this, have you ever heard of A Monumental Mystery?

An example “A Monumental Mystery”

One day they see the stone exterior was deteriorating at Jefferson memorial in Washington. Solution: To repaint or to change the stones, but thats so expensive.

Naturally, park rangers started asking themselves why its deteriorating in the first place.

Why is the building deteriorating? because its affected by hard soap/ high power sprays so often

Why do you have to clean the building so often? There are lots of pigeons and it gets covered in excrement.

But why are there are lots of birds around?

They brought in some bird experts to investigate, which led to the following:

There are clusters of spiders on the floor, the perfect snack for these pigeons.

Why there are lots of spiders on the floor? Because there are lots of insects on the ground and also flying around the building.

Why there are many insects? Because the lighting of the monument in the evening attracts the local insects.

As you can see, the issue with the deteriorating exterior at the Jefferson memorial could be traced all the way to the lights used to light up the monument. To remedy this issue for the long run, all they had to do was change the lights. Just imagine all the work and money they needed to invest on changing the stones or washing the building so often!

Now, time to try this method out yourself.

What you need:

  • Pen and paper
  • you also can do it without but I prefer the “realness” pen and paper provides.

In what situation is the “why” rule useful?

Lets start with the scenario, you are doing a user interview or user research or you want to know something and you are asking people for an answer, you start with asking questions and you hear the answer but the answer doesn’t seems to be right or you are not satisfied with the answer the reason can be people don’t know the answer OR they know and they will tell you but thats not the root and that is not the main issue so here we can use 5 whys.

Tips and tricks

  • start with a specific problem, for example for the jefferson memorial building the main problem was “Why is the building deteriorating?“
  • set goals, write down what you want to achieve by starting this process.
  • add everything you know about the problem
  • write how this problem effect business and on the other hand how many users are effected by this problem
  • ask the problem and write down the answer
  • ask another why based on user answer

Note: you might get to the root by asking only 4 questions or you might need to ask more that 5 times, ask so you get to the root of problem.

Note2: question you will ask might be simple as you would also assume the answer but dont assume just ask the questions let them answer.

Understanding the Importance of Identifying the Main Problem

When tackling a problem, especially those involving human factors, it's crucial to delve deep into understanding the main issue. People may not always be fully aware of the core reason behind their challenges and might offer surface-level explanations. It's essential to recognize that there could be underlying causes contributing to the problem beyond what initially meets the eye.

5 whys in reality

this method is a really good one as I said above
when you are getting deeper in an issue it can be confusing and sometimes hard to as the right why and specially if you are asking people and questioning with them they might feel uncomfortable as an example these are the feedbacks i got plus my own observation

  • oh why you ask these questions dont you already know the answer?
  • i just said this is the reason, there is no other reason?
  • its uncomfortable to keep asking why for one reason.

so to not make people feel weird or if you feel uncomfortable to go out and ask why, why, why… instead you can use this terms “how come?“

The Benefits of the 5 why‘s method

  • Its easy and you don’t need any specific tool.
  • you will understand the problems and also how other stuff can cause a problem, this way you can have a better understanding of how to
  • by knowing the root reason you can decide better for the solution or even if the solution worth it or not
  • You are in communicate with people.

When doing the five "WHY's" method remember to:

  • Don’t assume people are the problem
  • Don’t propose solutions ask questions
  • Listen closely or write the answers might lead you to a new direction that you didn’t thought of it.
  • Tendency to isolate a single root cause

Will the 5 why method always work?

No like any other method it might not work at some situations but for sure worth to give it a try. sometimes a problem is too complicate so you cant understand the main problem by just asking why or its a group of reasons.


At the end when you are facing problems specially those who involving humans give this 5 whys method a try. remember as its a good method is not a complete Root Cause Analysis method.

Remember, when in doubt about a problem's cause, just keep asking "why"—you might be surprised by what you discover!

I hope this guideline helps you create engaging content on using the 5 Whys method for solving problems effectively!

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