As I read the article, “5 Whys: Quickly Getting to the Root of a Problem”, I was surprised to learn that such a simple technique was created by the founder of Toyota to help fix issues in the manufacturing process.
The 5 Whys is an effective way to get to the root of a problem by asking series of “why?” questions. You Continue the process until you reach the root cause of the problem and once you’ve identified the root of the problem, you come up with a solution that prevents it from recurring.
The founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda believed in a Japanese productivity philosophy called “Kaizen.” Kaizen, which translates roughly to ” Continuous Improvement,” refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involves all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. So its no surprise that he was able to create a useful technique that could be understood by anyone.
The 5 Whys technique helped shape the Toyota Production System (TPS), which was designed to lower costs and improve productivity, with a special focus on human development. The Toyota Production System had become such a successful model that Toyota felt the concepts they pioneered on their assembly lines could benefit nonprofit and community organizations. So in 1992, they created the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC). A not-for-profit corporation that collaborates with organizations to help them become more productive, maximize available resources and improve quality and safety.
One story that has always stuck with me, was how the TSSC offered to help the Food Bank For New York City, but Instead of donating money or food, they offered kaizen. The average wait time for an individual to receive a meal at this kitchen was close to 90 minutes. After the TSSC team revised the kitchen and the process in which people were fed, the wait time was dropped to 18 minutes.
The video below shows the impact of how their methods were utilized:
What I respect about Toyota was that they understood that the processes and efficiencies they had created for their business could do good for others outside of their factory.