In a 5 Whys Analysis what would be the typical timeframe for the full process?

As a reference let's consider the "engine not working" example, in orders of magnitude (minutes, hours, days).

Is there any guidance or best practice?

Is it supposed to be a fast brainstorming or a meticulous drill-down of each why-step?

1 Answer 1


This greatly depends on the complexity of the thing you want to analyse. The sessions should be long enough to focus on real issues and not just the symptoms. Keep in mind that you do not need to solve the root-cause during the analyses, this can happen afterwards by different people or a smaller group.

There are three group sizes that are common for the analyses:

  • Personal analyses, one person: Should be pretty quick
  • One-on-one analyses, two persons: +- 15 minutes
  • Teams, 2+ persons: time-box the session, for example 30-60 minutes

For defects in software most sessions take around 15 minutes in my experience. This is mostly just a two person session to find process improvements to prevent defects.

For team sessions I always time-box a full hour to have room for discussions and insights. No need to use to full time-box when you found what you are looking for.

Some interesting reads:

  • Wow ten hours. Maybe we I should add business criticalness to the mix. If something happend that might destroy your company then its worth to use way more time. If you have the feeling the analyses is still adding value after a couple hours be sure to continue. Why are you guys taking so long? Is it hard to answer the why questions or is there a lot of discussion if the way is correct. You can always make a mindmap with multiple why's per level. After some levels see if you can come up with solid actions to tackle them. Jul 5, 2016 at 18:01
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    Maybe have a look at this: mastermindmaps.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/… Jul 5, 2016 at 18:04
  • I think you should do RCA as soon as the issue happend, since then the information about the situation is still fresh. Doing it a half year after the fact sounds like a major waste. I would push to do RCA's sooner and continuous and maybe not in groups :) Jul 6, 2016 at 7:26

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