5 questions “WHY”: The method of turning complex issues into simple

Taiichi Ohno, a former Toyota senior executive, said that whenever he encounters a complex problem, he asks himself five questions “why” from which the problem becomes much simpler.


We all have trouble when it comes to resolving a conflict. But there is a very effective way to solve every problem. And the only minus point of this is that it makes you look like a kid on a long excursion.

The secret to resolving the conflict, according to Toyota’s late senior executive, Taiichi Ohno, is “asking ‘why’ 5 times.” By doing so, you will reach the root cause and learn from the difficulties you face – thus avoiding repetitive foolish or ineffective actions.

For this to work, do not look at the conflict as something negative because, according to Ohno, “No problem is the biggest problem.”

Ohno used specific examples to solve problems as they appeared in the factory. If a welding robot stops operating, the discussion may take place as follows:

1. “Why the robot stops running?” The circuit is overloaded, causing the fuse to break.

2. “Why is the circuit overloaded?” Without any oil, it hardens.

3. “Why is the drive running out of oil?” The oil pump on the robot does not pump enough oil.

4. “Why does not the part pump up enough oil?”

5. “Why do the holes get clogged with metal?” Because the pump does not have a filter.


Toyota still uses this tactic, but it has been widely applied, not just for car manufacturing. Entrepreneur Eric Ries views this as an investment strategy in his book The Lean Startup. The world’s largest investment fund (Bridgewater) also uses it as a key management principle.

This method works because it forces people to understand a problem before trying to remove it, but many of us are concerned only with the appearance of the problem: “This technique Particularly helpful is to help us dig deeper into the data and information to reach the emotional layer, and ultimately to the values ​​and motives that really motivate one’s actions, “the psychologist Liane Davey said.

Try to put yourself in the following context: You just had a PowerPoint presentation, and it’s a bit too long for a little time. Customers have planned so they can not hear your proposal fully. Then you or your superiors can ask questions like this:

1. “Why can not my customers hear all about my output?” Because I do not have enough time.

2. “Why do not you have enough time?” Because I’m a little long on slides.

3. “Why do you have a lengthy presentation?” Because I did not lecture the night before.

4. “Why do not you practice first?” Because I was busy with some friends and had a lot of work to do yesterday.

5. “Why do you keep yourself busy the day before an important presentation?”

The answer to the fifth question may be different. For example, “Because I can not determine priorities for work and life issues,” or “Because I want to control everything, I do not ask others to help me with the rest,” or “Because I know I’m not good at talking, but instead of giving people a lecture or helping me to practice, I mess up everything myself.”

No matter what the answer is, it is very important to know the root cause of the problem if you want to solve the problem.


And just asking “why” makes you feel awkward and feel guilty, Davey suggests asking other questions but in the same form: “How did you answer that?” What factors did you consider? “,” What did you mean when you said that …? “Or” What does that think really mean? ”

All of them can elicit thoughtful and honest answers without putting the questioner in the position of the accused.