Here is another example of how to use the 5 Whys, this time in a service environment. For example, in a restaurant, the symptom is a customer complaining about the waiting time. Unfortunately, the way many people would fix this is by apologizing to the customer and make sure that he or she gets the food as fast as possible. What is the problem? What is the root cause of the problem?
Remember our friends from Yummy Broth? They are a small restaurant specialized in soups, but they also served salads and sandwiches. One day, not one or two, but four customers were complaining about the service. The truth is that the food was not arriving in a reasonable amount of time, and the front-end supervisor was concerned. They managed to get food in front of the customers to fix the immediate problem. The manager does not want this to happen again. She knows how to use 5 Whys, so next day during their stand-up meeting, she went ahead to analyze the root cause of the situation.
For this problem, probably most people will choose to expedite the food for the complaining customers, a second group would try to find a root-cause and will stop with the third or the fourth why. Only if you keep digging, will find that the root cause is that there is no standard work. Even if team members want to help, they could not do the right thing because there is no instruction to do the work. Without a standard, effective cross-training is not possible. At least the manager knows better and keeps asking why until the real reason was uncovered. Now, she should be creating that standard work with the team to organize cross-training.