“Why are you crying?” I ask my son.
“Because she screamed at me!” he responded, referring to his sister.
“Why did she scream at you?”
“I don’t know. I only sat down on the chair,” he said, not so innocently.
“Why would she care?” I continued the questioning.
“She mentioned that she wanted to play games with her friends. She can play anywhere.”
“Why would she care about the chair if she is playing online games?”
“Well, she mentioned she wanted to play on her computer,” he said with a softer voice.
“Why does that matter?” I asked.
“The chair that I sat in is her computer chair,” he confesses, but not before he immediately stopped crying and ran off. He realized that his acting is not going to work since he initiated the whole issue which led to his sister getting mad at him.
Can’t believe I used the “5 why’s” framework to get to the root cause in my personal life. Though it is a popular framework, I had never learned about the “5 why’s” until a few years back. It is a powerful, yet simple tool to deep dive into a problem to discover its root cause.
If you are trying to figure out a root cause to a problem, simply ask “why” to peel back the layers. Each why will get you closer to the answer. Supposedly, you can get to the root cause with exactly 5 why’s. Personally, the exact number of “why’s” does not matter as it is just useful to keep asking iteratively until we get to the root cause.