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{Excerpt} When confronted with a problem, have you ever stopped and asked “why” five times? If you do not ask the right question, you will not get the right answer. The Five Whys is a simple question asking technique that explores the cause-and-effect relationships underlying problems.

For every effect there is a cause. But the results chain between the two is fairly long and becomes finer as one moves from inputs to activities, outputs, outcome, and impact. In results-based management, the degree of control one enjoys decreases higher up the chain and the challenge of monitoring and evaluating correspondingly increases. In due course, when a problem appears, the temptation is strong to blame others or external events. Yet, the root cause of problems often lies closer to home.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). The five ways technique. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (