Why-Why Analysis Application for Inventive Problem Definition

By Don Johnson,2014-06-26 19:06
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Why-Why Analysis Application for Inventive Problem Definition ...

Functional Why-Why Analysis

    Aleksey M. Pinyayev



    In late 80’s [1], I started using why-why analysis for decomposing complex inventive

    situations into the simple problem statements. Later I have discovered similar approach in

    the research of Kishinev school the work that led to the development of ARIZ-SMVA, the most detailed version of the famous algorithm. Today, why-why analysis is widely

    used in TRIZ for better understanding of sophisticated inventive problems. The essence

    of why-why analysis is simple keep asking “why” until you find out the causes of the problem. Years of experience with this simple but powerful technique led me to its better

    understanding and development. Why-why became much more universal and robust tool,

    not only for problem definition but also for coming up with creative options. It also

    integrates seamlessly with my recently developed system of Functional Clues [5].

    The Myth of the “Right Problem”

    The days when TRIZ practitioners accepted the problem statement suggested by the

    problem owner are long gone. An understanding that the problem needs to be re-defined

    in order to be successfully solved is now a commonplace. In this new and better world of

    understanding the importance of problem analysis, a new myth has been created a myth

    of the “right problem”. “Work on a Right Problem” is a widespread motto in engineering

    communities and especially in TRIZ. The assumption here is that the Right Problem can

    somehow be found before the problem is solved and that its solution will satisfy the

    initial inventive situation in the best possible way. However, it is very easy to point out to

    the right problem after the fact, when it has been solved and delivered this best possible

    solution. Try defining the “right problem” before getting solutions, and it will be a very

    difficult or impossible task, simply because there are no criteria that dissimilate “right”

    and “wrong” problems.

    My approach is to break the initial inventive situation down to a multitude of

    problems and solving most if not all of them. The outcome of this work is a number of

    solution options which are prioritized based on a set of acceptance criteria. These criteria

    reflect the reality of the project: they define the most practical way of reducing the

    concepts into practice. Indeed, there are much more problems to solve with this approach,

    but, in fact, this makes the invention work easier because it expands the vision of the

    inventor and allows to look at the different sides of the problem at once.

    The case study I will use is decaffeination process. This is a real technical problem

    which has been analyzed and solved at P&G. The main concept coming out of this

    problem solving process became a cornerstone of one of the major P&G plants

    Sherman-Texas Decaffeination Facility. I will begin with a brief description of the

    traditional decaffeination process which was the most known and widely used process

    before the new technology was invented.

    1Traditional Decaffeination Process

    The simplified schematic of the traditional decaffeination process is shown in Fig. 1.

    This batch process uses organic solvent ethyl acetate with some water in order to extract caffeine from a bed of coffee beans. In the process, the solvent is supplied at the

    top of a large tank with coffee beans and collected at the bottom of this tank. The second

    step of this process, called distillation, separates caffeine from the solvent and returns the

    solvent back into the main tank. Decaffeination process is followed by the steam

    extraction which removes the residual solvent from the beans. Leaching takes 20 24

    hours per batch followed by 24 hours of the steam extraction. Because the process is so

    slow, the batch size has to be very large, which means high capital cost. The objective of

    the problem analysis and solution process was capital reduction.


    96% ethyl acetate

    4% water solvent




    solvent + caffeine caffeine

    Fig. 1. Traditional Decaffeination Process Paradox Is the Problem

    The why-why diagram of the problem described above is shown in Fig. 2. The

    diamond-shaped box is used for the initial observation and the magenta color is used to

    show the ends of the cause-and-effect chains. The rules on where to end these chains are

    described in the next section. As one can see, the why-why investigates three main

    branches of causes related to the solvent, the bean and the interaction between them. The

    why-why is build in layers, and a next layer is only built after a previous one is

    completed. This means that all whys for a particular cause must be exhausted before the

    causes of these new whys are identified. Finding hidden whys is an important objective

    of why-why analysis. The technique for finding hidden whys is described below in the

    section called “Hidden Why-Why Treasures”. The rest of the current section will explain

1 Courtesy of Lowen R. Morrison, P&G

Fig. 2. The why-why diagram of the traditional decaffeination process.

    how the specific problem statements called “why-why contradictions” are derived from the results of why-why analysis.

    The technique of why-why contradictions is based on the undesirable action negation

    approach suggested by A. I. Ponomarenko [2] and further develops this approach into a

    comprehensive problem analysis strategy.

    Why-why contradictions (specific problem statements) can be derived from the

    results of analysis by using any two consecutive whys. To form a contradiction, we keep

    former why and turn latter why around. For example, let’s consider a chain which ends with why # 37. The contradiction between whys ## 37 and 36 will be this: how to add

    more water into the bean without changing the bean’s flavor? The water content in the bean is an optimum between extraction and flavor impact. Can the beans be pre-treated

    for better flavor retention? What are the ways of flavor recovery after water addition?

    How water pH influences flavor impact? These are some of the possible ways to resolve

    this contradiction. The contradiction between 36 and 12 will be as follows: how to fully

    solubilize caffeine inside the bean without adding more water into the bean? This is a

    problem of changing solubility of caffeine in water. The next contradiction in this chain

    is between 4 and 12: how to optimize caffeine availability in the bean without fully

    solubilizing the caffeine in it? Can we, for example, rupture the walls of some of the cells

    without breaking the bean? This would increase caffeine availability without additional


     A. I. Ponomarenko suggests applying undesirable action negation to all whys in a

    chain and then solving all problems obtained by such negation. I add to it using a concept

    of why-why contradiction which combines negated why with the previous why, building

    a comprehensive list of all why-why contradictions (Excel is a good tool to use for that)

    and prioritizing these contradictions based on a set of acceptance criteria before these

    contradictions are resolved. The acceptance criteria may include the magnitude of the

    benefit coming from a potential solution, novelty, level of system modifications required

    by a potential solution, availability of the substance-and-field resources, safety,

    knowledge availability and others. The key point is: why-why contradictions are specific enough in order to provide a lot of information about potential solutions

    even before the problem is actually solved. For the set of three problems considered above, some are well-known and difficult (changing solubility of caffeine in water),

    others look novel and promising (rupturing some of the cell walls without breaking the

    bean). It is apparent, for example, that the problem of avoiding flavor impact requires

    significant research with no clear perspective on getting a good solution. All these

    considerations are used in order to prioritize the contradictions. I use the name Why-Why

    Contradiction Map for the result of why-why analysis process prioritized list of why-why contradictions. The Contradiction Map allows to approach problem analysis

    systematically and avoid missing the key contradiction. Obviously, the problems are

    solved in the order of their priority which in most cases allows to significantly reduce the

    amount of the required work.

    When to Stop Asking Why

    It is important to define the boundaries of why-why analysis in order to limit

    redundant work. It is also important to know when your why-why analysis is complete.

Additionally, it is useful to fully understand the limitations of the project. This section

    provides specific respective techniques.

    I recommend doing a first cut definition of the project limitations as a pre-requisite

    for why-why analysis. These limitations will be used to define the analysis boundaries.

    Let’s refer again to the decaffeination process. This is the first cut of the project

    limitations defined at the project definition stage:

    ? Ethyl acetate must be used as a solvent

    ? Must use the same raw beans

    ? Cannot increase capital cost

    Every time we add a why, we will do a turnaround of this why and compare it with

    the project limitations. If the turnaround why goes against the limitations, we will cut our

    why-why. Let’s consider the branch 3 10 21. The diffusion of the caffeine out of the

    bean is too slow because the solvent is not optimal. This is the turnaround why: “the

    solvent is optimal”. If we go this way, our problem is how to optimize the solvent. This problem does not necessarily go against any of the limitations listed above. Parameters of

    the ethyl acetate such as concentration, viscosity and temperature can all be optimized for

    the process. However, one of the reasons why ethyl acetate is not optimal is its limited

    extraction capacity. This capacity, basically, defines the solvent and is an intrinsic

    property which differentiates given solvent from other solvents in its class at the same

    temperature and concentration. The turnaround why is this: “extraction capacity of the solvent is high”. This turnaround why, which leads to a different kind of solvent, violates

    the requirement to use ethyl acetate. At this point, we cut our why-why for this branch. I

    use color-coding to mark the root whys as shown in Fig. 2.

    It is important to see that while we cut off the branch, we still include the root

    contradiction into the Problem Map. The root contradiction for the branch 3 10 21 is

    “how to optimize the extraction effectiveness of the ethyl acetate without changing its

    extraction capacity”. This is a valid problem which does not violate the project

    constraints and it will be included into the Contradiction Map.

    The why-why analysis is complete when all of its branches are cut off. In some

    special cases, turnaround whys may become solutions and this also cuts off the branch.

    Let’s consider the branch ending with why # 24. The turnaround why for it is “high

    pressure does not increase the capital cost”. Normally, the capital cost of the high-

    pressure parts is defined by the industry average which cannot be changed, so it becomes

    a project limitation. However, if there is a low-cost supplier of the quality pressure parts,

    this may become one of the solutions. Either way, the branch is cut off.

    This technique also helps to make the project constraints list more compete. Let’s

    consider root why # 37. The turnaround for it is “too much water does not impact the

    flavor” which does not violate any of the project limitations in the original list. However,

    the problem of avoiding the off-flavor caused by excessive water may go beyond the

    scope of our particular project. In this case, we add “too much water impacts the flavor” into the list of constraints for the project. It is important to understand that the why-why

    boundaries are project-dependent and what can be done in one project may be

    unacceptable for another.

Hidden Why-Why Treasures

    In many cases, one can find hidden whys between apparent ones which are already in

    the diagram. A. I. Ponomarenko [2] mentions an excellent example which can illustrate

    this approach. A. I. Ponomarenko provides this example without any analytical technique

    or tools to help in such analysis. The example describes the crashes and breakdowns of

    the high-speed power machines such as compressors, steam and gas turbines which use

    blades to convert kinetic energy of the gaseous media into rotation of the main rotor.

    Blade break-off leads to rotor brushing the stator with subsequent machine crash. A. I.

    Ponomarenko’s observation goes as follows: “The blade break-off has already happened;

    however, the sudden misbalance of the rotor has not happened yet. This time lapse is very

    small, but it exists, and one can formulate a problem with a corresponding Ideal Final


    Let’s step back from this involving example and think about it from the methodical

    standpoint. Initial, apparent chain of events went like this: insufficient blade strength ?

    blade break-off ? rotor touches the stator ? machine crash. However, there is a hidden

    why between “blade break-off” and “rotor touches the stator”. This hidden why is “rotor

    imbalance”. Rotor imbalance happens after the blade brake-off but before the rotor began

    to touch the stator. Understanding this hidden why leads to a very unobvious and new

    why-why contradiction: how to eliminate rotor imbalance after blade break-off but

    before the rotor begins to touch the stator? Because this problem is not obvious, chances of getting novel and powerful solutions are very high. A. I. Ponomarenko mentions ring

    auto-balancer as a potential solution and there may be more options.

    I have found that discovering the hidden whys is a very powerful tool in re-defining

    the problem. Initially, my technique was very simple but not very instrumental: look at

    the two consecutive whys and try to complete the sentence “The first leads to … which

    leads to the second”. Staring for a while into the empty space between the first and second whys helped to come up with the hidden one. Later, I noticed that most of the

    hidden whys were related to either analysis of the sequence of events in time or

    considering the process on a micro-level. The example above demonstrates the value of

    the sequential analysis: what happens when the blade has already broken off but the rotor

    has not started to touch the stator? With this “time zooming”, finding hidden why is

    easier. The example below demonstrates the micro-level approach.

    Procter and Gamble makes the product called Bounce for more than 25 years. Bounce

    is a nonwoven sheet which is impregnated with the actives that make clothes softer and

    smelling fresher after drying them in a dryer. Bounce sheet tumbles in a dryer along with

    the clothes; the actives get transferred to the clothes by the mechanical motion and

    friction combined with elevated temperature. A dryer so common in American homes

    today is a machine which passes hot air through a load of clothes which are continuously

    tumbled by the machine’s internal rotating drum. The problem I did why-why analysis for was how to avoid wasteful perfume removal by the hot air in a dryer. The perfume,

    which is one of the Bounce’s actives, can only be transferred via direct contact with the

    clothes. When it volatilizes, it is gone with the air blowing through the dryer. My initial

    why-why chain looked like this: air inside the dryer is hot ? perfume is exposed to hot air ? perfume heats up ? perfume evaporates ? air removes perfume molecules. In

    order to find hidden whys, I asked myself a question: when these transformations occur,

    what happens on a micro-level? Let’s use this approach to find a hidden why between

“perfume heats up” and “perfume evaporates”. How does the evaporation happen on a

    micro-level? Perfume in the Bounce sheet is incorporated into the cyclodextrine

    molecules. This enables a long-lasting fragrance effect: cyclodextrine molecules are

    small “cages”, each holding one perfume molecule inside. These micro-cages attach and

    hold perfume on the clothes for a long time after removal from the dryer, gradually

    releasing precious fragrance into the air. In that context, evaporation means that excited

    perfume molecules vibrate so strong that this vibration pushes them out of their

    cyclodextrine cages. The new, hidden contradiction coming from this analysis was this:

    how to prevent jumping of the perfume molecule from the cyclodextrine shell in spite of

    the molecules being hot and vibrating? This new contradiction led to a few novel

    powerful solutions.

    To recap, the technique for finding hidden whys looks like this:

    ? Define two consecutive whys

    ? Build the time diagram of the events described by the two consecutive whys

    ? Answer the question: what happens when the first event has completed and the

    second one has not yet started? Right down hidden why.

    ? Define first and second events on a micro-level

    ? Answer the question: how the transition from the first to the second event happens

    on that level? Right down hidden why.

    Obviously, doing this for all whys is a lot of work, but this work can be reduced. I found that finding hidden whys is most critical for the whys closest to the roots of the


    Now we will come back to the decaffeination process and see if we can find a hidden why between the whys ## 20 and 11. The bed of beans has high resistance to the solvent

    flow and this leads to something which leads to the solvent not getting replenished

    quickly. We can easily see that the time domain analysis is not going to help very much

    in finding the hidden why because both consecutive whys happen at the same time. Let us

    try the micro-level approach.

    The first micro-level below the bed of beans is a few individual beans with the solvent surrounding them. These beans are as close as to touch one another, so it is

    difficult for the solvent to go around the bean quickly and this is why the solvent is not

    getting replenished quickly! Our hidden why is low flow rate around the bean and our

    new why-why contradiction is how to increase the flow rate around the bean without

    changing the bed resistance to the flow. Now, it is simply an Ohm’s law: in order to

    increase the current, we must increase the differential pressure. Now we no longer rely on

    the gravity to create this pressure differential but more on the well-known methods of

    maintaining high pressure differential through the resistive media such as pipes and

    pumps. We replace the huge tank with a sequence of bean-filled pipes and we maintain

    high flow rate around this system of pipes by applying appropriate pressure differential.

    This is the breakthrough concept [4] around which the Sherman-Texas plant was built.

Functional Why-Why Analysis

    Usually, we do functional analysis for the entire initial situation to help us better understand the problem and define the problem model (step 1.2 and 1.3 of ARIZ-85V

    [3]). My approach is different. In this approach, we do the functional analysis of the why-

    why contradictions as the next step to the completion of the why-why diagram. We end up doing many small functional analyses instead of a big one. On the level of why-why contradiction, the functional model is only slightly more complex than the problem model. This approach allows to make the functional analysis much simpler and more focused which makes the concept generation easier and more effective. Additionally, this approach allows us to naturally transition from why-why analysis to Functional Clues [5]. Now, let us discuss how Functional Why-Why analysis is done in TechOptimizer.

    TechOptimizer v. 3.5 offers an interface very suitable for the Functional Why-Why

    analysis. This analysis can be done in the Process Analysis module (Fig. A1.1). Please, refer to the series of the screenshots in Appendix 1. Importantly, Show Subprocess stage feature must be enabled (Fig. A1.2). The why-why analysis is done in the Subprocess window of the software. The initial observation uses Not Analyzed Subprocess box and the whys are put in the Subprocess boxes. The whys are connected with the causal arrows. Please, refer to Fig. A1.3. Each Subprocess box has an option of opening the Operations window, separate for each Subprocess. This window is used to right down the why-why contradiction. This contradiction is described in the Operation box (Fig. A1.4). Each why has its unique contradiction. The Operation box has an option to open the Operation Analysis window. This window is used for the functional analysis of the why-why contradiction (Fig. A1.5). The whole why-why diagram will be saved along with all the contradictions and partial functional analyses. Interface with Functional Clues

    There is only one step left which connects the Functional Why-Why analysis with the

    system of the Functional Clues described in [5]: the transition from the partial functional model to the Application Condition of a Functional Clue. This transition is done in a functional diagram by selecting one of its components and no more than two arrows coming to or from this component. This selection, basically, defines the graphical model of the problem also called Application Condition in the Functional Clue language. The [5] considers this transition and the following steps in details. The system of Functional Clues completes the problem analysis and solution method described here by providing means to generate creative concepts addressing each of the why-why contradictions. Conclusions

    The Functional Why-Why approach described in the present paper allows to break the initial inventive situation down to the partial problem statements called why-why contradictions. These why-why contradictions are prioritized into a Why-Why Contradiction Map and further analyzed using functional approach. The initial why-why diagram gets further developed by the hidden why search. This systematic approach enables reliable problem analysis and ensures that the key contradictions or problems will not be overlooked. This, in turn, increases reliability, productivity and effectiveness of the concept generation stage done by the system of Functional Clues.


    1. A. M. Pinyayev (1998). Causal Analysis of Undesirable Effects in Complex

    Technical Systems. Collected articles: “Teoriya I praktika obucheniya

    tekhnicheskomu tvorchestvu”, 21 – 27 May 1988, Chelyabinsk, pp. 65 66. In


    2. A. I. Ponomarenko (1995). Selecting a Problem by Using the Undesirable Action

    Negation Statement. Journal of TRIZ, 1995, ?1, pp. 51 53. In Russian. 3. B. L. Zlotin, A. V. Zusman (1991). Come to the Training Ground. In collect.: How to

    Become a Heretic. Compil. By A.B. Seljutskiy. Petrozavodsk, Kareliya, 1991, p. 192.

    In Russian.

    4. U.S. Pat. # 4,474,821

    5. Aleksey Pinyayev. Functional Clues. TRIZ Journal (,

    December 2006.

    Appendix 1. Using TechOptimizer v. 3.5 for the

    Functional Why-Why Analysis.

Fig. A1.1. Functional Why-Why Analysis is done in the Process Analysis module of the


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