With the Tokyo Olympic Games in full swing, it’s the perfect time to introduce a new e-learning tool from Safer Together that provides training in a problem-solving technique originally developed in Japan. Known as the “5 Whys”, it’s a simple but powerful tool that allows you to dissect a problem and reveal its underlying causes quickly. If used effectively, it can improve incident investigations and assist in the improvement of work practices, operational procedures and workplace safety culture.
Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese industrialist, inventor, and the founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Whys as a problem-solving technique in the 1930s. It became popular in the 1970s, and Toyota still uses it to solve problems today. It is most effective when the answers come from people who have hands-on experience of the process or problem in question.
Recurrent incidents are often symptoms of deeper issues. "Quick fixes" may seem convenient at the time, but they often address only the surface issues and don’t tackle the real cause. One of the simplest and most effective ways to identify why an incident has occurred is to ask “why?” up to five times.
There’s nothing technical or complex about this process – anyone with young children will tell you that kids are experts in diligently applying this technique! It’s this simplicity that makes the 5 Whys such an effective safety improvement tool. Start with a problem and ask why it is occurring. Make sure that your answer is grounded in fact, and then ask the question again. By repeatedly asking the question “Why?” (five is a good rule of thumb), you can peel away the layers of symptoms which can lead to the root cause of a problem.
The Safer Together 5 Whys e-learn tool includes a simple video of an incident to set the scene. It then provides background and information about 5 Whys, followed by a step-by-step guide on how to conduct an effective 5 Whys investigation. A second video then revisits the earlier incident, running through an example of a 5 Whys investigation so participants can see it played out to a conclusion.
Member companies can either:
- access the online version of the e-learn tool directly here; or
- download the e-learn tool ready to embed in their organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS) here.
A Launch Pack has also been developed to help member companies introduce and deploy the 5 Whys e-learn tool. This includes the following support materials:
- Implementation Guide
- Promotional Video Clip