This Commercial is Not Exactly the “Five Whys”


If you're watching college football bowls or the NFL playoffs, it's hard not to see this commercial from DirecTV. It's not exactly the reverse of the “5 Whys” (as popularized in Lean and the Lean Startup methods), but it made me laugh.

After the video, I'll show what the 5 whys would be (working backward from the sequence in the commercial).

Why did the guy end up in the ditch?

Because he was beaten up by a gang

Why did the gang beat him up?

Because they wanted to see how tough he was

Why did he look tough?

Because he had an eye patch and that makes you look tough

Why did he have an eye patch?

Because he got hit in the eye playing racquetball

Why did he get hit in the eye?

Because he was blowing off steam and, when you're blowing off steam, accidents happen

Why was he blowing off steam?

Because he was angry

Why was he angry?

He was being kept on hold a long time by his cable company

Why did the cable company put him on hold?


It's said for any effective 5 Whys that you should be able to work backward and have it be a logical chain of causation. I guess that's true in the video?

So you'd better switch to DirecTV if you don't want to end up in a ditch? I'm a happy DirecTV customer and I've never been beaten up and left in a ditch.

That's what Lisa Simpson called “specious thinking” in an episode where Homer was convinced his “Bear Patrol” was successful because no bears had been seen (to which Homer replied “Thank you.”

A better solution might be anger management classes for the guy? Or protective goggles?


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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