Chapter 10

Digging Deep into Needs

The Five Whys

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. Jack Bauer: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.


In your needs discovery you should dig beneath the surface to understand the root causes of buyers’ challenges. The Five Whys will help.

Popularized by Taiichi Ohno, one of the fathers of lean manufacturing, the Five Whys is a root-cause analysis technique that moves business leaders past putting Band-Aids on the symptoms of a problem, and instead helps them address the underlying causes, thus permanently solving the problem and creating a lasting new reality. The Five Whys help you work with prospects to uncover the root causes of what is driving their needs, and craft the most compelling, powerful, and lasting solutions.

Essentially, the Five Whys is to problem solving and critical thinking what removing weeds at the root is to gardening. Fix a symptom in business but not the underlying cause, and, much like a pulled weed with the root left in the ground, the symptom is bound to sprout up again. Fix the underlying cause of a problem at the root, and you will see lasting improvement.

Example Problem: The Production Line Stopped Again

  • Why (1) did the production line stop? Answer: We blew a fuse.
  • Why (2) did we blow a fuse? Answer: Because the bearings overheated.
  • Why (3) did the bearings overheat? Answer: Because there is insufficient lubrication on them.
  • Why (4) is there insufficient lubrication on the bearings? ...

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