The 5 Whys: Brilliant Processes Drive Brilliant Results

The 5 Whys: Brilliant Processes Drive Brilliant Results

Two months ago I accepted a position with LeanCor Supply Chain Group as a Lean Logistics Specialist. I was eager to jump into the logistics field. I felt I had the knowledge and skills that a young professional such as myself would need in order to be successful in the industry.

Right from the beginning, I was assigned to a major account that LeanCor had only been working with for two weeks prior to my employment. This new account was full of both short and long-term challenges that put me to the test each day. Unlike my internship where we dealt with problems with a short-term mindset on finding quick and easy solutions, LeanCor encouraged me to look for long-term solutions to reoccurring problems and implement poka-yoke’s to stop the problem at the source. This new mindset enabled me to get through the ambiguity and stress of coming up with quick solutions and implement standard processes. The processes are error-proof and are value-adding to my standard work.

Leading companies continuously improve performance through best practice strategy and operational efficiency. A trend that has grown in interest that has shown to positively impact strategy and operations is the 5 Why assessment. The 5 Why’s were key in establishing my new approach to everyday operational issues. The 5 Why’s is a questions-asking method used to explore the cause/effect relationships underlying a particular problem. It is important to remember that there can be more or even less than 5 Why’s asked during the execution; it all depends on the severity of the problem and where in the process the root cause is determined. Ultimately, the goal of applying the 5 Whys method is to determine a root cause of a defect or problem.


The following is a real example of a problem that the LeanCor team and I evaluated which led to the development of a standard shipping scheduling process for one of our customers.

Problem: The driver missed the delivery appointment.

  1. Why? - The driver was held up at the shipper for pickup.
  2. Why? - The shipper was behind schedule on loading trucks.
  3. Why? - The shipper incorrectly forecasted the amount of time it would take each truck to get loaded.
  4. Why? - The shipper is first come first serve and does not have an accurate loading schedule.
  5. Why? - The shipper does not have a sufficient standard shipping schedule.

When implementing the 5 Why strategy, it is important to remember that people do not fail, processes do!


The 5 Why technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was later used within Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of their manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem solving training delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System (TPS). The architect of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, described the 5 Why method as “the basis of Toyota's scientific approach…by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.” The tool has seen widespread use beyond Toyota, and is now used within Kaizen, lean manufacturing, and six sigma Methodologies.

After two months of working with LeanCor Supply Chain Group, I have found my place within the company and routinely use the 5 Why process in my daily work. The 5 Why assessment is one of the most basic tools that LeanCor uses to focus on processes in order to achieve maximum results. It is a building block for establishing the principles of flow, standard work, quality at the source, and visual management guides.

After all, brilliant processes = brilliant results.

Written by David Walter, Lean Logistics Specialist at LeanCor

Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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