Problem Solving - Getting to the Root Cause

Problem Solving - Getting to the Root Cause

‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’, said Albert Einstein. He also described Insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’. To solve problems then we need to get to the root cause. But how?
One sure fire way that we advocate in discovering the root cause of any problem is to adopt the 5 Whys methodology. It's simple to understand, straightforward to use and easy to remember. Here goes...
Take a problem. For example, in a manufacturing process where a machine keeps breaking down. Resist the temptation to solve the problem at a superficial level by inventing a workaround solution. The trouble with sticking plasters is that their stick never lasts. Instead begin to discover the root cause of the problem by asking the question ‘why did this happen?’. And keep asking ‘why?’ Until you reach the root cause. To reach the root cause it is recommended that you ask ‘why?’ 5 times.
For example, the answer may be that the machine keeps breaking down due to a blown fuse. This occurred due to a fuse blowing due to being overloaded. ‘Why?’ question number 1.
The second ‘why?’ question is to ask why the fuse was becoming overloaded. The answer was that insufficient lubrication is reaching the bearing which was then causing overloading.
So why was the lubrication not happening? This was because the machine’s pump was not drawing the lubricant. So why was this not working? The answer to this cause was because the pump’s shaft was worn and was rattling.
So why was the pump worn and rattling? The answer to this was that there was no filter fitted that would, if fitted, stop impurities from entering the system causing the wear. This was identified as the root cause.
Please watch the video below for more information.

The 5 Whys offers a simple yet effective technique to identify root cause. Designed by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota, we train this methodology on our Creative Thinking & Problem Solving and Process Improvement modules on our ILM Recognised training programmes.
For more information, please contact:
Paul Beesley
Director & Senior Consultant
Beyond Theory

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