Five Whys of Success

While most Six Sigma professionals use the "five whys" to solve problems, few use them to analyze the root causes of success. In April 2011's HBR article, Francesca Gino and Gary P. Pisano examine Why Leaders Don't Learn from Success. They found three key factors affecting the ability to learn from success:

    1. Fundamental attribution errors - concluding our talents or strategies are the reason for success
    2. Overconfidence bias - success increases our faith in ourselves
    3. Failure-to-ask-why-syndrome - "the tendency not to investigate the causes of good performance systematically."

Most Six Sigma professionals look at the data to figure out what's wrong, not what's going right.

Solving for Success

It's pretty simple. As the authors put it: "Tools like Six Sigma have taught us to dig into root causes of problems. Why not use the same approach to understanding the root causes of success?" Just put the success in the head of the fishbone diagram, then ask Why, Why, Why, Why, Why? Maybe it was the process, machines, materials, environment, or people.

Figure it out. Build it into your process so that you can succeed more easily next time.

Seems too easy doesn't it?

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