Learning with CareerSense

Getting to the
root of a problem

Often, when we come across a problem, we just want to dive in and fix it, and that's fine. But if we also find the cause of the problem, it's less likely to happen again.

Let's get started with a quick overview of some questions to ask when trying to solve a problem.

The '5 Whys' technique

Here's a technique that's widely used in problem solving and may be helpful to you.

The '5 Whys' is a technique you can use to get to the root cause of a problem. The '5 Whys' analysis means you ask why? up to five times, or sometimes more. This lets you drill down far enough to get to the root cause of a problem, and then decide what you must do about it. 

First, you select a cause. There may be more than one, so choose the one that seems to be having the most impact. This is the most important of the five whys; why does the problem exist? And then with each answer ask why again until you find the root cause.

Don't be afraid to be curious. It may take five questions, but it could be as many as 15 or as few as three. The point is to be open to, and willing to explore all possibilities. Using '5 Why's' technique makes sure that you're getting down to the root cause of a problem and solving it, not just applying a quick fix to an issue that will crop up again later. 

Let's end on an example.

The 5 whys example

Problem: We aren't receiving as many downloads of our app as we used to.
  1. Why has the issue been brought to our attention?
    The sales team noted a drop in downloads and noticed there was a technical issue with the app.
  2. Why hasn't the testing team caught the issue?
    The testing team only performed testing prior and shortly after launch.
  3. Why hasn't continuous testing or spot checks been done?
    Because the team don't have enough time and testers to do the testing.
  4. Why is there not enough time for testing?
    Because the testers are tied up in 3 other projects.
  5. Why was on-going testing and maintenance not built into the plan?And so on...

...therefore, your root cause may be that app maintenance was not considered for after the app went live, and your solution may be to hire additional testers to conduct continuous testing or spot checks moving forward. 

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