What Is the Real Root Cause of the Problems We See in the Office or on a Jobsite?

Taking the 5 Whys to the Next Level

At McKenney’s our teams strive every day to make improvements in our work, on our jobsites and in our customer service. However, it’s not just about making improvements—it’s about making the right improvements. To do this, you need to discover the real issue, also known as the root cause.


Many of us have heard of and used The 5 Whys. This LEAN method helps us examine a challenge we’re facing by asking “Why?” five times to find the root cause. Here’s an example of The 5 Whys in action:

  • The problem – There’s trash on a jobsite
  • Why is there trash on the jobsite? No one picks it up.
  • Why does no one pick it up? There are no trashcans nearby.
  • Why are there no trashcans nearby? We don’t have any more.
  • Why don’t we have more trashcans? We never ordered them.
  • Why didn’t we order them? We never made it someone’s responsibility.


Once you’ve asked “Why?” five times, check to make sure we found a solution that actually eliminates the root cause or causes of the problem identified and not just creates a solution to counter it. In the example above, we would ask if we really found the root cause. Do trashcans really answer why the trash was on the floor in the first place? The solution of more trash cans may actually create more waste and cost on a jobsite. By examining the problem and looking for more than just a quick fix, you may find a solution that prevents the trash from ever entering the jobsite.


This method of checking your or your team’s answers can help you discover the true issue and ultimately eliminate the problem altogether. Keep this LEAN method in mind when you look around your area every day, and don’t forget to submit your observations to the MyGoodIdea Program so we can help and support you with creating a solution. Together, we will continue to make McKenney’s LEAN and create new standards in quality, safety and service for our customers.


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About Bryan Decker

Website: https://www.mckenneys.com

Email Address: bryan.decker@mckenneys.com

Bryan decker is the LEAN champion at McKenney's. He started his 12-year career in the U.S. Army in 1992, during which he was part of the Army Aviation Logistics team. In 2004, he transitioned to a civilian logistics role for Target Corp. Since then, Bryan has worked to optimize operations and supply chains through continuous improvement and LEAN principles.

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