Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Ask Why 5 Times

Identifying the root cause is as easy as “5 Y’s”

Ever wonder why a project or campaign didn’t perform as good as you expected? You might ask “why” once and I’m sure you’ll find an answer. But try asking 5 times and you’ll get a very different answer. Actually, you’ll get more than the answer - you’ll be able to identify the root cause of some of your major problems.

The 5Y analysis is a technique for discovering the root causes of a problem and showing the relationship of causes by repeatedly asking the question, “Why?”
It is a very effective way of getting to the root cause of any situation.
Here is a quick example of the 5Y analysis in action:

Situation: I Just bought a hybrid car and the mpg isn’t performing as advertised:
Y1 - Because the car sucks
Y2 - Its not giving me the desired mpg, which is why i bought the car
Y3 - I’m pushing car like a regular car
Y4 - Because I like to drive faster
Y5 - Because I’m having trouble adjusting my driving habits to optimize hybrid performance
In this situation we’ve isolated my driving habits and the need to change them to get the most out of the new investment. And as driving habits and acceleration patterns adjust, the MPG should move closer to the desired levels.

How can we map this to a marketing situation?

Situation: A recently launched campaign didn’t meet the target launch date and isn’t yielding as many leads as hoped:
Y1 - Not yielding results because messaging is not right
Y2 - Rushed getting campaign out the door
Y3 - Had trouble with the copy for this particular segment
Y4 - Didn’t fully understand marketing persona associated with this segment
Y5 - Not enough data compiled on this segment
In this sample we went from blaming people and drove to the real heart of the matter - which was data related. And it’s kind of funny - if you do this exercise long enough in a marketing context you’ll see a very similar root cause every time. More often than not it boils down to data. And having the right data is important to modern marketing.

Question everything. This is how processes are improved. And don’t do it once - do it five times. It can be a painful reflection, but in doing so you are exposing the heart of the problem. Addressing that might be costly or time consuming, but by addressing it, you will be optimizing your processes and efforts.


This theory can be applied on its own or in conjunction with other root causation techniques such as a “fishbone diagram”. In the fishbone you’ll identify a few main culprits, at minimum 6, and using the 5Y technique you’ll be able to dive deeper into each reason. Maybe you’ll see a pattern after asking your whys and that would be a great indication of where to start on your path to success.

No comments:

Post a Comment