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The 5 Whys and the Ishikawa (Fishbone) Diagram are two of the best tools to use in the Analyze Phase. They both enable “Structured Brainstorming.” The Ishikawa allows a group of people to brainstorm potential root causes to a problem, and then the 5 Whys helps you move past symptoms to what might be the underlying root causes. The next step would be to use data, observation or testing to verify the true root cause. Until verification, these are just hypotheses. Hypothesis testing would be helpful if the data doesn’t make it obvious.

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.