5 W's and an H. Often referred to as the 5 Why's. By David Hutchins

This simple technique predates everything that could possibly be described as being the ‘Quality Profession’ and owes more to the likes of Fredrick W Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth than to any of the latter-day quality guru’s.

Originally it was part of a concept called Critical Examination.  Using this concept, an organisation would design, or purchase forms (see Critical Examination grid above).

It can be a tedious process asking all of the questions but it surprising how just by asking them makes the questioner challenge current practices in a very penetrating way.

In its simpler form as currently used in quality related problem solving it can result in some quite dramatic results.

Here is an example taken from one of the ‘Quality Minutes’ video clips produced by the Juran Institute in the 1980s (and published on You Tube).  A quality improvement team were concerned about the large number of bird droppings around the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.  The most popular suggestions included putting some netting around it to keep the birds off, using bird alarms of various types etc. Then a perceptive team member asked Why are there so many birds on the memorial? They feast on the spiders that congregate there? Why do so many spiders congregate there? They eat the midges that congregate there for around two hours starting when the lights go on an hour or so before sunset. Why do the midges go there? It is a mating ritual. So if the midges are not there, there will be no spiders and if there are no spiders there will be no birds. OK, so what if switching on the lights is delayed until one hour after sunset? The idea proved successful!

The use of this technique is not always appropriate as is the case with all of the tools but sometimes it can also be useful in helping break down causes that are really motherhood statements into more specific and tangible sub causes, sub sub causes as far as is needed to get into the smallest detail. It is worth making a habit of being conscious of it at all times during the problem-solving process.

There is a lot more detail that we could have gone into here but this would require more than a Blog. The entire problem solving process is included in the DHI e-learning programme Quality Fundamentals where the student is taken through the entire problem solving process using a series of animation videos.  If a group is formed, the materials are designed to encourage the students to tackle a live work project of their own choosing and should reach a positive conclusion whilst they are working.

Please check this out on www.qualitycoursesonline.co.uk