Five Whys is a heuristic approach for root-cause analysis. When faced with an opportunity, asking why five times can prove useful to identify underlying causes and motivations. The five in "five whys" is anecdotally the number of iterations required to get to the real root cause, however more or fewer may be required in reality.
Example: Underlying Motivations
Opportunity: I want a promotion
- Why do you want a promotion? To increase my income and influence.
- Why do you want to increase your influence? To build & be part of a culture that I will find fulfilling.
- Why build a culture? I'm going to be here for a long time.
- Why will you be here for a long time? I'm motivated to influence the culture because believe I can find a balance between my need to take risks and my need for financial security.
- Why do you need to balance risk and security? Family makes risk too scary without security, but I get bored without risk and start to fail. To feel successful, I need to take risks that pay off but realistically I need security to take those risks.
Broader Topics Related to Five Whys
The art of taking responsibility for the performance of others
Tips and resources to improve personal productivity
A method for methodically maximizing with progressively fewer resources