Prep Time:
30 min
Time to run:
30 min

5 whys template

Get to the root of any problem

Courtesy of our friends at

Use the 5 whys analysis template to drill down on a problem and discover the root cause of a problem. The template includes three different spaces to write a problem statement and identify the root cause of each one.

The 5 whys technique involves asking "why" questions to identify the root cause of a problem or issue. By asking "why" 5 times for each following answer, the underlying cause of the problem can be uncovered.

The 5 whys template helps you:

  • Identify the root causes of a problem
  • Improve problem-solving and drive outcomes
  • Prevent a problem from recurring
  • Encourage collaboration in a group setting

How to use the 5 whys template

Start by identifying a broad problem that you need to solve and write that at the top. Then ask “Why” and write your answer as a statement. Then ask “Why” of the second statement and write down your answer. Repeat that three more times to identify your root cause.

1. Invite team members to collaborate

Bring together a team with which to conduct the workshop. A cross-functional team may offer more insight into potential issues, but this depends on the type of problem. 

2. Define the problem

The problem should be as broad as possible, so you can hone in on the elements of what’s causing it as well as the root cause. 

Try phrasing the problem as a statement rather than a question, so you can ask yourself, “Why?” in the space below.

3. Start asking “why”

Explore why the core problem is occurring with your group. Once you have identified a root cause, ask “why” again and explore that reason. Do this three more times, exploring each subsequent reason. 

Asking “why” five times is the standard for the 5 Whys technique, but you may have to go through several more rounds.

4. Brainstorm solutions

Now that you have some root causes, you can explore with your collaborators what the right course of action should be to resolve the problem.

5. Plan next steps and take action

Take your solution and carry out a plan to solve your root problem. Don’t forget to follow up with your collaborators and stakeholders so you can share information and prevent similar problems from happening again in the future.

Example of a 5 whys exercise

In this example, your problem statement is: customer service agents aren’t able to answer all incoming calls throughout the day. The first “Why?” is about the problem statement. Your answer might be, “Because there aren’t enough agents to answer calls.” The second “Why” is asking, “Why are there not enough agents?” This goes on until you’ve asked “Why” five successive times.

Let’s look at this example as a completed exercise:

Problem: Your customer service agents aren’t able to answer all incoming calls throughout the day.

Why? There aren’t enough agents to answer the volume of calls.

Why? We are experiencing more calls than we forecasted, and so we’re not properly staffed.

Why? We forecasted inaccurately. 

Why? We didn’t accurately anticipate the volume of calls regarding issues with a new product release.

Why? We didn’t proactively answer our customers’ possible questions about our new product. 

A five whys analysis helps you see individual elements that could be contributing to the problem you’re having and how those elements eventually lead to a root cause. The 5 Whys Template aims to help users avoid making assumptions about a problem. The goal is to understand exactly what’s causing the problem, so you can eliminate those barriers and begin to uncover potential solutions.

Tips for running a 5 whys root cause analysis

  • Clearly define the initial problem or issue being addressed. This ensures that everyone involved in the analysis is on the same page and understands the problem.
  • Facilitator tip: If you’re concerned about groupthink, try using Mural’s Private Mode so team members can work independently to identify the core issue.
  • While the 5 Whys analysis involves asking "why" five times to get to the root cause of the problem, keep asking “why” until the underlying cause is identified.
  • Try using the 5-whys method for different use cases: fix workflows, understand resourcing issues, optimize project management hiccups, and more.

How to create a 5 whys template

Mural features to help your teams collaborate and solve problems in real-time

From running a cause and effect analysis, to creating mind maps, Mural provides the technology and skills you need to solve complex problems.
Sticky notes & text

Sticky notes & text

Add ideas, action items, and more as a sticky note or text box — then change the colors and cluster to identify patterns and new solutions.

Real-time collaboration

Real-time collaboration

Add more productivity and engagement to meetings and calls with features to guide collaboration.



Keep collaboration moving forward with a timer to structure and time-box activities.

Private mode

Private mode

Avoid groupthink and get authentic feedback by allowing collaborators to add content privately.

Infinite & resizable canvas options

Infinite & resizable canvas options

Choose the right canvas for your collaboration goals — flexibility without limits.

5 whys template frequently asked questions

What is a 5 whys analysis?

Who should be involved in a 5 whys exercise?

Can the 5 Whys template be used for both internal and external problems?

Where does the five whys methodology come from?