When the “5 Whys” Is Not Enough to Solve Your Human Resources Challenges

In past several blog posts, we outlined a widely used business problem solving process, known as the “5 Whys,” and examined how this strategy can help HR professionals. Developed by Toyota engineers, 5 Whys been used by businesses around the world to engineer solutions via root cause analysis.

But the 5 Whys is not a managerial panacea. For instance:

•    Different people, applying the same questions, can arrive at radically different root causes.

One manager, for instance, may conclude that an HR problem flows from a lack of a team discipline. Another may blame poor leadership.

•    The person asking the “why” questions may lack enough information to get to the root cause.

The core constrain, in other words, may be beyond the investigator’s expertise or domain.

•    The person asking “why” may not drill down far enough to get to the “true” root cause.

Sometimes, it can take eight or nine whys (or more) to get the right answer.

•    Once you discover the root cause, you still need to create and implement a plan of action based on your new knowledge. That may not always be possible.

For instance, perhaps you are a Vice President of Human Resources, who discovers that your department’s hiring problems have their roots in a lack of vision from the top. You cannot force your boss (or your boss’ boss) to transform her leadership style. So you may be stuck.

For practical help with your Southern California employment law questions, turn to Attorney Nancy Gray and her team for a free consultation about your options.


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