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The 5 Whys tool is versatile and is used in a lot of places. After a failure is a great place to use it to try to understand why the failure took place. In the Analyze Phase of DMAIC, it’s a great companion of the Fishbone or Cause & Effect Diagram in order to push past brainstormed symptoms to potential root causes. I’ve also seen it used in the Lean Agile process to better understand customer requirements. Five-year-olds aren’t the only ones who have discovered a fabulous tool!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.