Root Cause Analysis with 5 Whys (without an Ishikawa Diagram)

While I was busy with calculating the MOR and benchmarking our project, my wife did try to start things up again on her end and began tackling the mysterious piles of crap she had been stuffing into our closets and piling into corners for years.  She then made new piles of those things in our home office.

Now she won’t go into that room, saying it’s too overwhelming and stressful for her, and she’s not quite sure what to do with it all!

So I just had to take a look.

It was like a monument to crap had been built.


I pointed to the pile overflowing the nice ergonomic rolling chair, preventing its use as an actual chair – “What’s that pile?” I asked her.

“That’s trash.”


“Yes, trash.  Things to be thrown away.”

“Why didn’t you actually throw the stuff away?”

“I got overwhelmed and I forgot.”

“Why didn’t you ask me to do it?”

“I don’t know.”

I couldn’t understand why she didn’t throw that trash away.  It’s beyond my imagination, so I thought it’s a very important point for our project.  Therefore I decided to conduct a Root Cause Analysis with an Ishikawa diagram.

The subject is “Why does my wife get stalled in Sorting Projects?”  I wrote it to the right of a horizontal line and my wife and I discussed the subject.

I asked her:  “Why do you get stalled in sorting projects?”

She said:  “I hate it.”

“Why do you hate it?”

“It’s confusing.”

“Why is it confusing?”

“I can sort into categories, but I’m not quite sure what to do next with the categorized piles.  There’s no clear place to put them.”

I just practiced the 5 Whys technique and questioned her answers, so she was able to figure out the root cause by herself.  Here is her conclusion:

ROOT CAUSE:  We are not following the “Realistic Logistics of Organization”.

The main considerations for organizing are:

Access Ease – How easy (or hard) is it to get to what I want?

Access Frequency – How often do I need to get it?

Space Available – Is there somewhere I can put it?

Specific Space – Is this the specific space for it?

Specific Storage Container – Is it loose/messy or looks neat in its space?

“Priority should be to make often-accessed things easier to get to (and put away) and stick less-accessed things in hard-to-reach areas.  There should be enough space to put everything away (or more storage options need to be purchased) and each thing should have it’s own space.  The things should look tidy when put away, or be put in special containers to be neat.”

She even started writing what we should do next.  Since she figured out the root cause and action plans by herself, I didn’t bother drawing the Ishikawa Diagram.

I remember that each time we “discussed” the issue or the topic came out, it ended up as a big argument before.  In fact, I have talked to her about the same statement as above, in the past, but every time it ended up as an argument.  Amazingly the discussion this time was actually pleasant and productive.  This is the power of Lean Six Sigma.  I also confirmed the importance of stakeholder’s Buy-In.

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