We know, marketers don’t feel comfortable with tactics that don’t lead to success.
We usually have a thirst to see the results of our efforts.
When we face futile efforts, we tend to add modifications to our strategies without really making an in-depth search for the cause.
At times of crisis, we jump to results, and to ways out without really digging deep into the origins of the problem we face. Simply, because we want to get over with it and, psychologically, we tend to avoid even thinking about it, but thinking about the fastest way out of the situation.
At some point, it becomes clear that without getting to the core of the problem you’d keep struggling with the same trouble, simply because you would keep repeating the same old habits.
You would need to tackle the real (root) problem in order to see tangible improvements.
Many big companies adopt the 5 whys approach when dealing with problems. I’ve found out that it’s a simple, flexible and foremost efficient approach to spot and unveil the underlying cause.
I’ll start by a leap back to the 1930s when Sakichi Toyoda, one of the fathers of the Japanese industrial revolution and founder of Toyota, came up with the technique which is still adopted today.
It is in harmony with Toyota’s “Go and See” philosophy which implies that decision-making is implied on facts rather than on guesses and speculations.
We share the same vision at Kpeiz, in our marketing department, our decisions are data-driven and our strategy on facts and statistics. If it’s “Go and See” in Toyota, in Kpeiz, it’s “Speak with data”
The principle is simple
When faced with a challenge, or lower than expected results, you start digging for the root cause by asking “why” five times in a reiterative way. Its efficiency stems from the fact that it is done by people who are involved in the process in question.
It is more adequate for minor issues and not intensely complex matters.
How should we conduct the 5 whys approach?
- Call for a meeting (make sure you invite all the involved members)
- Write the specific problem: the choice of words is important. They need to be clear and precise
The action of writing it is important since it creates a visual impact on the members to set their focus on the problem.
- Ask Why the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem.
The apparent cause of a problem, which appears at first sight, is often only the consequence of other underlying dysfunctions.
- Take time to consider if this is the real and underlying root cause of the problem. If it is not, go back to Step 3 and ask “and why did this happen?”. Keep asking and checking until you get to the final cause.
5- If the root of the problem is not reached, continue with the causes until you reach the real causes and put in place basic solutions.
Tips for an efficient 5-whys session
- If you spot more than one cause in Step 3, repeat this process for the different axes (each cause become an independent problem) until you reach a root cause for each of them.
- Make sure at each question that the cause is factual and not a mere assumption
- You’ll detect the real cause when a direct counter-measure is apparent.
Here’s an example:
Looking for reasons and not for the person responsible for the problem:
Throughout the questioning process, we can come across situations where a member of the team didn’t do his job properly. It important to recall that the process is not about putting the blame on one of the members, but to spot the cause. If the cause is organizational, the team needs to place a more clear system, so that it wouldn’t reoccur to any other member.
Following the 5-whys method, the true causes of the problem can be identified. We can solve the problem at its core and not only cure the symptoms.
Once you’ve spotted the root cause, you need to agree with your team on:
- Corrective actions: these are direct actions to take in order to save the situation.
- Establishing a maintenance plan in order not to deal with the same issue in the future.
The 5-whys technique fits perfectly well in digital marketing. Today, we no longer need to rely on guessing games when it comes to establishing our editorial lines or taking corrective actions vis-à-vis our social media strategy. We need to orient our creativity on the right path.