[Total: 1    Average: 3/5]

The 5W2H is probably the most common basic tool. It is very useful to describe a problem, key phase in the resolution process.


The mnemonic 5W2H (who? what? Where? When? How? How much? Why?) summarizes an empirical method of questioning. In a pre-analysis this systematic questioning makes it possible to define any type of subject, in order to collect the necessary and sufficient data to make the state of the scene and to report the situation without omitting anything. In English, this method is 5W2H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, how, how much).

Its simplicity, its logical and systematic characters mean that many also use it to structure the return of the results of their analyses.


The origin of the 5W2H is found in the first steps of scientific research. According to Socrates (437 – 399 JC), research is a state of mind, a posture of questioning. It gives the idea that research is a constant interrogation of our beliefs, attitudes, professional practices…

We owe to the Greek rhetorician Hermagoras de Temnos ( 1st century JC) the formation of the scientific spirit through the 5W2H method transmitted by Saint Augustine1 (Quis, Quid, Quando, Ubi, Cur, Quemadmodum, Quibus Adminiculis).

Then it will be the rhetorician Marcus Fabius Quintilian (35 – 96), who wrote a treatise on how to speak, oratorical Institution, in which he describes a hexameter (about 12 syllables distributed in 6 hexa meters measurements) to remember the 7 points to be dealt with during a Survey: Quis, Quid, Ubi, Quibus Auxillis, Cur, Quomodo, Quando.

In more modern times, this empirical method is used by journalists to identify an event2. In an industrial application, Taylor used this tool: as part of the task analysis and standardization methods, the person in charge of making these improvements had to ask these seven questions.

The method

The use of the method is simpler, which makes it relevant, especially since it allows to go around quickly of the subject.



Expected answers

What is it?

Description of the problem, the task, the activity.

What is it about? What happened? What is being observed? What is the need?

object, actions, processes, phase, operation, Machine…


Description of the persons involved, stakeholders, stakeholders.

Who is involved? Who detected the problem?

Staff, customers, suppliers…


Description of the premises.

Where did this happen? Where is this happening? On what Position ? What machine? What stage?

Places, work area, workstation, machines…


Description of time, duration, frequency.

What moment? How many times per cycle? Since when? What has been the conduct of the actions?

Month, Day, time, duration, frequency, schedule, deadlines…


Description of methods, modus operandi, manners.

In what way? Under what circumstances? What control?

Equipment, supplies, procedures, modus operandi…

How many?

Description of the equipment, material.

What is the cost? Which equipment? What resources? How many defect?

Budget, losses, number of resources…


Description of reasons, causes, objectives.

For what purpose? Which objective ? Why is this a problem?

Corrective Action, preventive, training, attaining objectives…

Alternative 1

In column, the answer to the 4 questions is supplemented by the answer to the 3 modalities: how? How many? And why?


How many?



What is it?



Alternative 2

Another variant by the researchers Kepner and Tregoe, is to complete the matrix by answering the questions IS and IS NOT. The principle makes it possible to better target the perimeter by avoiding scattering.



What is it?





How many?


Use Tips

  • The ” how many? ” and the ” Why? ” may arise as a result of the other questions, but they should also be asked after each answer. This process helps to reinforce the argument.
  • The ” how much? ” is often used to give a measure of the overall issue, the values indicated must be as representative as possible.
  • Finding gaps in the data and information available can lead to halting or postponing the action.
  • In order not to be content with superficial analysis, the necessary questions must be asked insistently, until it is no longer possible to find additional answers. However, the totality of the data thus accumulated is not necessarily useful. Subsequent to the collection, a synthesis-evaluation of the data obtained should be carried out to provide a sufficient summary.


1-D. W. Robertson (1946)- A Note on the classical Origin of ‘ Circumstances ‘ in the Medieval Confessional

2 – X. Delengaigne (2013) – Organize your time with Mind Mapping

C. H. Kepner, B. B. Tregoe (1980) – Rational Manager: Methods of problem analysis and decision making

L. Avrillon (2005) – Quality problem solving approach in the context of new high-tech products

Share This