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How to Apply the 5 Whys to Identify Priorities for Visitor Management Operations

How to Apply the 5 Whys to Identify Priorities for Visitor Management Operations Photo

Prioritizing an implementation plan for a visitor management system isn’t easy. Your go-live date can vary depending both on use case, timelines, and potentially complex technical requirements. One effective method to help prioritize stages of this project involves a simple technique that’s designed to uncover fundamental elements underlying a problem or decision called the Five Whys. 

The technique leads to improved outcomes primarily because it enables thinking from first principles, or in other words, reasoning from indisputable basic truths instead of from inherited ideas or notions riddled with hidden assumptions. It can be also used to prioritize visitor management implementation by revealing valuable opportunities that might not be obvious at first. 

The Five Whys was created by the founder of Toyota in the 1930s, and still stands as one of the most effective management techniques ever created. It is particularly effective for pinpointing problems and uncovering solutions for effective implementation of new technology like a visitor management system. In the current economic environment, when companies are facing pressures to identify the most critical priorities, implement budget restrictions, and ensure employee safety all at the same time, this technique can help zero in on the elements that are critical to achieve company objectives. 

Here’s how it works: State a problem or process you’d like to fix or optimize, and then ask and answer “Why?” five times successively. Why five times? It’s rare that one can’t get to the very core of a problem by or before the fifth answer. Once you get to the root of the problem, it will likely be so well-defined that choosing appropriate countermeasures will be straightforward.

The technique can help clarify core requirements of a visitor management implementation and determine whether certain features are essential for business operations. Here is an example:

“What is the challenge you’re facing and why address it now?”

Management is asking for better security at reception.


Visitors present a large risk to the organization.


We have limited knowledge about them and those that are on our watchlists aren’t always identified.


It’s difficult for security to know when someone on the watchlist signs in.


Because the watchlist is on a physical spreadsheet that is separate from the logbook.

By drilling down, it’s revealed that the problem is not a security issue at its core after all. It’s a problem related to the separation of two critical tasks, resulting in a security loophole. An effective countermeasure is to seamlessly integrate watchlists with the check-in and pre-registration processes to automatically flag security when a prohibited individual attempts to pre-register or sign in.

This type of first-principles thinking is one of the most powerful ways to cut through complexity to analyze your guest management process and identify appropriate visitor management system functionality, processes, permissions, and configuration. To relate this to current events for a moment, it is particularly important to identify techniques that can clarify priorities for dealing with the complexity that COVID-19 has introduced — especially for enterprises that continue to require face-to-face interactions with contractors, delivery people, or customers. Consider using it to help establish focus on key questions arising from the changes COVID-19 has required your organization to make. 

One of the reasons the 5 Whys technique applies well to visitor management system configuration is because the person who leads the visitor management implementation often only sees the small scope of the problem at hand — for example, the need to replace a paper logbook. Since VMS touches on many stakeholders’ needs, using this technique — combined with Sign In Enterprise’s award-winning support — can prompt thinking about specific elements that may otherwise be overlooked, resulting in a robust, comprehensive visitor management system configuration built from first principles and for any situation.

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