Kaikaku - 8th commandment

From: Norman Bodek

I do hope you have enjoyed reading each week the Commandments of Kaikaku and that they have stimulated you to think differently about your improvement activities. Hopefully you have found them fun to read but they are much more powerful to you when applied. The commandments come from a new book by Hiroyuki Hirano to be published in 2005. The commandments are Hirano's while the comments are mine.

The 8th Commandment of Kaikaku from Hirano is: "Ask 'Why' five times."

"In the mid-nineteen eighties I took Dr. Shingo to Granville-Phillips a manufacturer of vacuum testing equipment in Boulder, Colorado.

Granville-Phillips had brilliant engineers, but they took four months to bring a new product to market (and then the result was 97% defects in final inspection). Dr. Bills, the CEO of Granville-Phillips, asked Dr. Shingo to please look at their manufacturing process to see if he could help them become more efficient.

Shingo at first went to where the process originated. We went to watch the design engineers and then we followed a logical progression through the entire manufacturing process. At each stage engineers and managers would present problems to Dr. Shingo and he would carefully think and look and then instead of just giving the answer, he would ask the engineers some very basic questions. He loved to use the Five Whys, asking why five times.

Five Whys is a simple but great technique to use to solve problems. It really gets people involved using their brains and challenging the 'status quo.' An example:

"Why do we get soldering misconnects?" an engineer asked Dr. Shingo. His answer was a question.

"Why doesn't the solder not 100% connect the pins to the board 100% of the time?"

"Sometimes the solder does not melt properly," an engineer would answer.

"Why does that happen?" asked Shingo.

"Maybe the solder's temperature varies," another said.

"Why would the temperature vary? Shingo again would ask.

At first the engineers stared into blank space until one said, "Something is causing the temperature to vary!"

"Why does that happen, what could cause the temperature to vary?" Shingo asked.

A bright light went on in the head of one engineer who said, "Maybe since the un-melted solder drops into the solder bath in chunks, not smoothly, the temperature drops at that moment, causing mismatches when the next board is entered into the bath."

This was a classic example of the "Five Why" process that Shingo was demonstrating. Continue asking "why" until the answers are exhausted and you have found the root cause.

"Brilliant," Shingo shouted. " Now what can you do to prevent the solder dropping in so drastically?"

Another engineer said, "We can reduce the incline for the solid solder so that it would only slowly enter the melted bath."

For Shingo, there was always a fundamental reason for a problem and it only took some deep probing and a sense of never accepting a defect or that a problem could not be solved." - page 45 - 47 Kaikaku The Power and Magic of Lean

Asking "Why" five times is such a simple technique but so very powerful. Of course, sometimes you might have to ask "Why" ten times or more until you get to the root cause of the problem, Try it!