An argument against the Five Whys and an alternative approach you can apply.
Before I begin this post, let me say that this is intended to be a critique of the Five Whys method, not a criticism of the people who are in favor of using it. This critique I present is hardly original; most of this post is inspired by Todd Conklin, Sidney Dekker, and Nancy Leveson.
The concept of post-hoc explanation (or “postmortems” as they’re commonly known) is, at this point, taken hold in the web engineering and operations domain. I’d love to think that the concepts that we’ve taken from the new view on “human error” are becoming more widely known and that people are looking to explore their own narratives through those lenses.
I think that this is good, because my intent has always been (might always be) to help translate concepts from one domain to another. In order to do this effectively, we need to know also what to discard (or at least inspect critically) from those other domains.
The Five Whys is such an approach that I think we should discard.
Velocity Europe will be held Nov. 8-9, 2011 in Berlin.
The Velocity Conference has already turned once exotic topics like database scaling and mobile performance into common knowledge. Now, Velocity is bringing its mix of web ops and performance evangelism to Europe.