How to create a 5 Why Template in Excel

When it comes to process improvement, one of the templates I tend to use the most (and benefit the most from) is my 5 why template.

As we’ve discussed previously (look here for our Business process capture excel template & Kanban board template articles) templates are great as they help you and your team use a standard and help save time so you don’t have to create the template from scratch every time.

What is the 5 Why process?

The five why’s is a tool that is used in continuous improvement methods to determine a problem’s root cause. It’s nothing fancy, there’s nothing technologically ground breaking in but it’s one of the THE most effective tools you’ll ever use.

Simply put it drives to the root cause of an issue by asking “why is that” against a problem statement. Let’s look at an example, we start off with a problem statement

“A critical customer delivery was missed”

1st Why – the parts required for the build were late

2nd why – The order was placed late

3rd why – The designs had not been finished to release to the supplier on-time

4th Why – The design team were focussed on another priority program

5th Why – The Design team leadership did not understand the supplier lead-time to manufacture and thought they had more time.

The principle is that along the 5 why journey you are learning things that can be done better next time. Whilst there are no hard and fast rules that each problem statement has to be resolved in 5 steps (there can be less or more) the principle is that in most cases drilling down to the root cause will enable a business to identify the problem and improve.

So given the 5 why process’s simplicity you can get away without using a tool completely – however having one does help you follow the principle correctly (especially in a group setting) and the tool can be a handy repository for storing the finished assessment.

Luckily you can produce a great 5 Why template in excel – below I’ll show you how. Note this template includes a couple of extra bits that I’ve found useful to include:

Here’s a screenshot of my template:


As you can see the template is fairly simple and consists of

1/ Problem statement

Here I’ve merged Cells B3:M6 – I use this field to enter the problem statement

2/ Impact summary

I’ve found it useful to add a bit of context to the problem so I use this section as an area to check that I have

· Data to support the problem statement
· Whether the impact is minor or major to the customer
· The frequency the problem occurs.

3/ The 5 why’s –

For each Why I merge 3 rows and 10 columns into one cell to enter the “why” detail. I’ve also found it useful to capture the cause of the Why, i.e. People, Process, Product (I’ve just created a checkbox or this). I just repeat this area 5 times – one for each Why

4/ Next steps

Again, I merge some cells to create a text entry field to capture the next steps following the 5 why exercise.

So I hope you found that useful , again the 5 Why tool, whilst simple, can be immensely powerful so why not give it a go?