Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 5 Whys

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams GreatThe 5 whys is a retrospective technique that can be used when the team needs to focus on a specific symptom that does not have an obvious solution. The goal of the 5 whys is to clearly understand the situation and not necessarily to solve the problem.

The process is as follows:
  1. Write the problem statement clearly and concisely on the board.
  2.  Divide the team into groups of at least 3 but not more than 5. 
  3.  In each group, individually answer why did this happen? Number your answer as #1.
  4.  Individually answer why did #1 happen? Number your answer as #2.
  5.  Individually answer why did #2 happen? And so on until you have around 5 answers or can’t come up with more meaningful answers (try to have at least 3 answers).
  6.  Each individual places their chain of responses in a column below the problem statement. The group then discusses the individual answers and tries to find common patterns.
  7.  The group consolidates the chains into a single chain.
  8.  If necessary, the team consolidates the chains into a single chain.

Participants should focus on exploring the immediate cause of the symptom rather than attempting to immediately jump to a root cause. The intermediate reasons often spark ideas within the group that would otherwise be overlooked.

While this exercise is typically applied against problems, this same technique can also be used to discover what led a team to achieve exceptional success in one area.

Adapted from: Putting the fun back into your retrospectives @ Agile2011