It may not be a post code, but 5W1H can help you find what you’re looking for.
The 5W1H acronym, which stands for five Ws and one H, represents a systematic method of asking questions to help you find the most critical details about a process, project or a problem.
I first learned about 5W1H – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How – while studying journalism. News stories, I was taught, must include 5W1H in the lead – the first sentence or two – of the article. Good news stories compose the five Ws and the H in a compelling narrative that keeps the reader reading. For the journalist, 5W1H is a formula for getting all the pertinent facts on a subject to present a complete picture for the reader.
Sometimes referred to as the Kipling method after the English author Robert Kipling who paid homage in a poem to the questions for helping trigger ideas in his writing, 5W1H is commonly used to stimulate creative thinking or to find and develop new ideas. However, its use isn’t limited to the writing or creative process.
Since none of the questions can be answered with simple yes or no, 5W1H is also used as a basis for information gathering and problem solving. Asking who, what, when, where and why – no less than five times – in early stages of problem solving elicits detailed answers that support a complete analysis of the problem. It can also uncover additional opportunities, if they exist, so that better solutions and decision can be made.
In project management, the 5W1H questions are used as a checklist to ensure a project is covering all the necessary basis as well as ensure the overall effectiveness of project delivery.
As a corporate communications professional, I use the questions as the starting point for just about everything I do – from writing organizational announcements to developing manager talking points and naturally, building frequently asked questions. I also use them when I’m developing new programs and initiatives as the foundation for my business case. Answering the 5W1H questions helps me answer and organize all the key points my leadership team will need in order to decide if the program is worth funding.
Whatever your profession, project, process, or problem, you can use 5W1H to structure your thinking. Answering the 5W1H questions will give you a complete fact-based story and give you the facts you need to make an informed decision about what to do next.
“Check out This Minilesson: Asking and Answering the 5 W’s and H Questions.” K, 6 Nov. 2015, k12.thoughtfullearning.com/minilesson/asking-and-answering-5-ws-and-h-questions.
Ipma. “5Ws 1H: A Technique to Improve Project Management Efficiencies.” IPMA International Project Management Association, 15 June 2018, www.ipma.world/5ws-1h-a-technique-to-improve-project-management-efficiencies/.
Kipling, Rudyard. “The Elephant’s Child (Poem).” Short Stories and Classic Literature, americanliterature.com/author/rudyard-kipling/poem/the-elephants-child-poem.
Markov, Sergey. “Sergey Markov.” Genvive, 7 Apr. 2019, geniusrevive.com/en/the-kipling-method-5w1h/.
Mindjet. “Five Ws and an H: 6 Questions All Project Managers Should Ask.” Five Ws and an H 6 Questions All Project Managers Should Ask Comments, 12 Apr. 2013, www.mindjet.com/blog/2013/04/6-questions-all-project-managers-should-ask/.
“Using the Five W’s and One H Approach to Six Sigma.” ISixSigma, 15 Oct. 2014, www.isixsigma.com/implementation/basics/using-five-ws-and-one-h-approach-six-sigma/.
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