Beyond the Five Whys: Root Cause Analysis and Systems Thinking

James Paterson
16 november 2023

RRP: £38.59  Hardback: ‎ 352 pp  Publisher: ‎ Wiley;   ISBN 978-1394191055

A straightforward explanation of root cause analysis and systems thinking, illustrating, with real-world examples and first-hand accounts, why things can ‘slip through our fingers’ and what to do to reduce the chances of things going off track.

Beyond the Five Whys summarises, for the first time, many of the tried and tested ways of understanding problems using insights from aviation, high reliability organisations and a range of thought-provoking sources. The book provides readers with a clear and structured explanation how to analyse setbacks and head off problems in the first place. It will challenge much of the received wisdom, such as the idea there can be one root cause or that a person or bad culture could be a root cause.

Specific areas covered:

  • Learn what root causes are, how they differ from immediate and contributing causes and why it’s so important to go beyond the Five Whys technique for root cause analysis.
  • Recalibrate the way you think about things going wrong, incorporating insights from systems thinking, so you can be clearer what ‘cultural’ or systemic problems mean in practice.
  • Learn about the eight principal ways things can slip through our fingers.
  • Go beyond the blame game and firefighting to avoid the never ending cycle of repeating issues.
  • Strengthen your ability to read the output of a ‘lessons learned’ or enquiry report.
  • Get a fresh perspective, using these techniques, on why the Titanic tragedy turned out so badly, and understand the numerous parallels between what happened then and a range of recent setbacks we have seen, such as the Covid 19 pandemic.
  • Consider the broader application of these techniques to some of the challenges we face in the 21st century.

Beyond the Five Whys also contains supplemental guidance how to make improvements in an organisation. It is of value to business managers and those in specialist roles such as GRC, ESG, risk, compliance, quality, project management, H&S, IT, and internal audit roles.