5 Hows

Skill level: Basic


The five hows is a questioning process for drilling down into the details of a potential solution to a known problem. It is designed to bring clarity and refinement to a solution and arrive the root solution (best solution).


Quickly drills down to the desired solution
Does not require special skills or a computer
Fosters teamwork by using brainstorming method
Forces teams to expand their horizons in the search for solutions and a more detailed understanding of potential solutions

How to Use

  • Step 1. Draw a box at the top of a flip chart and clearly identify the solution to be explored.
  • Step 2. Below the statement box, draw five lines in descending order.
  • Step 3. Ask the “how” question five times and write the answers on the lines drawn from numbers one to five.
    • *Note: It may take fewer than five questions to get to the bottom of the solution.*

Relevant Definitions
Brainstorming: A group activity used to pull quantitative data/information from participants.


A service community for elderly people wishes to promote more exercise to residents. A team conducts a brainstorming session on how to achieve more vigorous daily exercise.

The potential solution is the following:

  • Solution: Residents in the assisted community need more vigorous exercises on a daily basis
    • How?: Less TV and card playing
    • How?: More community sponsored physical activities programs
    • How?: More in-house motivators and trainers
    • How?: Add additional resources
    • How?: Vote a special budget to finance the program


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