The Five Why's is a famous and useful tool for conducting a root cause analysis in problem solving. I've applied the idea of asking why five (more or less) times to get at the root cause and applied it to mind mapping. Since many problems have more than one cause, applying the process to a mind map keeps the door open for identifying many possible causes. While any one may appear to be the root cause, it is only in comparing all of them that you can clearly see the best opportunity. Here's the process that I use:
- Start your mind map by writing your problem in the center. (In the example above, Stairway Accidents is the problem.)
- Radiat out reasons why there is a problem. What are the causes? What causes that cause? ("what causes" is as useful as "why" and without the emotional turmoil.)
- For each cause, ask why it's true or what causes it. Why that cause? What causes that - and radiate out your answers.
- Some "what causes that" may produce more than one response. This is another reason why the mind map approach works so well. Simply branch out more causes.
- If a cause emerges as too expensive to solve at present, place a dollar-sign on that trail. More dollar signs, if you like to embellish, for even more expensive causes to fix.
- If a cause appears only manageable and not within your influence to solve, put an "X" at the end. You may choose to avoid attempting to solve these.
- The most likely cause behind it all AND one within your influence and budge to solve, draw a double line path and put a star at the end. This is your best solution opportunity.
- Create a dotted circle around the original problem circle. Write your goal or key action/focus in this new surrounding circle.