When analyzing for the root cause the 5-Why process is often applied. Unless there is an unbiased process applied to the answers of the 5-Why process, the desired answers could be established prior to initiating the process and the answers are tracked backtracked from this desired answer. The fact of this is that most 5-Why processes only allows for one option for the root cause. Since the organization is determined to establish a root cause, the root could be established without applying the 5-Why process. This is the “checkbox” syndrome of establishing a root cause by applying the approved root cause analysis. The assumption is that as long as the paperwork looks good it must be the right root cause and operations must be safe, correct? No, this is not correct. An incorrect root cause is more unsafe than a know, but non-effective root cause, since the new and incorrect root cause has not been tested and the outcome is unknown. Assuming that the new root cause is effective is to assume that opinions are facts.
Find the roots that feeds life into the process.
Another option is to apply best-practices or continuous safety improvement by collecting data from the light manufacturer of how many hours or cycles a runway edge light is expected to last. If this was done, a process to change these lights prior to lights burn out could be reduced from 7 years to 6 months and their safety goal to minimize burnt out lights achieved in a short time. By applying the data supplied by the manufacturer a 5-Why analysis may not even be necessary to establish the root cause.
When only one option of questions for a root cause the question must be answered first.
Without data, there is no event, only opinions of events. Applying a straight 5-Why does not necessarily establish the correct root cause, since the answer is locked in after the first question is answered. For the 5-Why process to be more effective the application of a matrix moves the process out-of-the-box for a nonbiased result.