Failed 5-Whys

You may have noticed that a couple of recent Lean Leadership posts have been illustrated public examples where someone tried to fix a problem but did not really get to the root cause.  While those well-intended people working on these issues probably were not thinking in terms of Root Cause Analysis, the results illustrate what can happen when a team fails to identify the root cause.

I intend to post a follow up discussion to C’mon! Fix it Right & C’mon, Man! Let’s Get it Right.  In the mean time, there is a LinkedIn discussion that you might find interesting.  It’s in the Lean Learning Center group and you can see it by clicking here.

What issues have you seen when a team misses the mark with their 5-Why Root Cause Analysis?

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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2 Responses to Failed 5-Whys

  1. Have you ever noticed organizations who aspire to and promote Lean Leadership seem to have trouble displaying that on the front lines? One company that comes to mind is Wal-Mart. Every time I go into a Wal-Mart I notice something wrong. First, the managers are nowhere to be found. They should be roaming the floor to view their store, their people, their departments, their shelves, interact with customers, etc. You never see that. Second, the problems I see never get better or corrected. Worse than that, when I approach an employee about whatever the issue is, they don’t seem to have a proactive, corrective approach or action. It usually is an excuse as to why it is that way at that moment. For example, a favorite cereal of mine was not on the shelf for a couple of days. I asked the department ‘shelf stocker’ to check to see if there are any in the back. Using her data exchange hand-held device, she told me that there were 14 in stock. Well, she went back to get them; there were none to be found. The inventory process was flawed, and the re-ordering process failed to anticipate growing demand. This, by the way, happened a few times since then, but has since been thoroughly corrected. But, why? Lean Leadership? Where is that at Wal-Mart?

    I’m sorry for the rant…your post inspired this…I feel better now.

    • Thanks for checking in Dale. Wal-Mart certainly has done a great job of driving prices down. Some of that is through supply chain efficiencies that are Lean. Some of it is through beating down their suppliers which is not a Lean principle if your definition of Lean is the Toyota Way. I agree that the execution on the store level is not there, especially in the older stores. It’s not a pleasant shopping experience but people go for the prices. You raise an interesting lesson for Lean organizations though. It’s certainly not enough to talk about Lean in the Board Room or the corner office. Lean Leaders need to instill the principles throughout the organization. I think we both feel better! Thanks again.

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