Five Whys versus Five Y’s

Five Whys versus Five Y's

The concept of Five Whys is for quality analysis and finding the root cause of a problem. Let’s take a software defect. You find the first “Why” for the bug.  Maybe it’s a missing test case. The second “Why” derives off the first so you ask why was the test case missed?  The answer might be that the test case was missing because you didn’t understand that your software feature interacted with another feature.  Once you go five levels deep on your “Why” analysis, you should find the true root cause of the issue.  I’m also a software development manager and quality of the product is paramount. Understanding how the bugs get there in the first place lets you catch them earlier in the process.  Once they get into the field they are exponentially more expensive.

It got me thinking that you could apply these same principles to your personal life.  For example let’s just say you are unfulfilled with your job.  You might go through this process and realize at the fifth “Why” that it was your choice of major to study or that you wish you had gone to different university.  You could use this analysis and figure out the root cause of things you don’t like about yourself.  Now for most people this may be a depressing exercise because it dwells solely on the past.

I had a thought about the reverse effect.  What if you looked forward but instead of using “Whys”, we use the Five “Y’s”. To me a “Y” is a fork in the road; a place to make a decision.  What if I looked at each decision each day and wondered what might be the outcome of my choice.  Let’s take my wife. ( Yes, take her please – Henny Youngman ) No, seriously, let’s say she asked me to help her with something.  First “Y”. I have the choice to say yes or no. Maybe I’m tired and I say no. The Second “Y” might bring me to an argument with her.  She may be hurt that I wasn’t willing to help, but now she’s hurt by something I said, because I chose (Third “Y”) to say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.  ( Hey, I’m a guy.  It goes with the territory ).  Now, she asks me to sleep on the couch.  I could choose to apologize or sleep on the couch. Fourth “Y”.  My pride forces me to choose the couch which is not very comfortable.  Let’s say I get a crick in my neck from an uncomfortable night’s sleep and I don’t notice the step down in the den and fall, breaking my leg. Fifth “Y”.

The moral for me is to make better decisions in life and hopefully it will lead to a more fulfillment and enjoyment during my journey   A corollary lesson: Don’t piss off your wife or you’ll get your leg broke.