The Lean Startup
The 5 whys is a powerful technique to get deeper than root cause analysis. If done correctly, it uncovers the underlying process problem and allows you to solve a whole category of problems instead of only the surface level symptom.
To implement the 5 whys correctly, you must pick a small subset of issues that you tackle as they come up. This ensure that they are fresh, still relevant, and can be analyzed in real time. Then you proceed with asking the why five times to determine the cause.
This process will provide you with causes at multiple levels. The problem uncovered by each why requires more effort to solve. So if you come across a minor or first time issue, you may only need to act on the first or second why. However, as the severity increases, the amount of prevention offered by the latter whys become worth the time investment.
One thing to look out for during the analysis is the tendency of shifting to blaming instead of analyzing. This happens with teams new to the process or during high pressure situations. The only solution to this problem is build experience and trust. Once everyone knows that they are in this as a team to solve a problem and no one is on the chopping block, the team can come together to form a great solution.