The 5 Whys Strategy is a simple tool to help you explore and uncover the root of a problem.  You can use it when starting out with your quality improvement journey to explore your problem or area of concern.  It can also be used at any time during your improvement work to tease out whether you are focusing your work on the right areas.

The 5 Whys can be used on its own - and is particularly suited to simple or moderately difficult problems.   It can also be used to help explore more complex cause and effect, for example to interrogate a Fishbone diagram.

5 Whys is best used with a group who are familiar with the area of concern that you are going to discuss.


Note: As you work through your chain of questions, you may find that someone has failed to do something that they should have done.  However, 5 Whys is not about pointing the finger or assigning blame.  It allows you to ask why that happened – recognising that human error is often a result of poor processes.  This then opens up the potential to explore areas for improvement within your processes.

Contact Information

For support or further information on any aspect of improvement work in CNWL, please contact the QI Team in the Improvement Academy at: