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Methods: Planning consistently happens in three areas, personal, ministry and organization and on three levels, strategic, tactical and operational

The Five W’s and One H Method For Decision Making

Directional signs5W1H represents a list of fundamental questions, What? Why? Who? Where? When? and How?, whose answers are considered basic in information-gathering, analysis, problem-solving, communication and decision making.

They are often mentioned in journalism, police investigations, brain-storming exercises and research projects as they constitute a formula for providing a complete overview of an idea, subject or topic you want to understand.

The Kipling Method: Six Honest Serving-men

The Five W’s and One H Method was memorialized by Rudyard Kipling in his “Just So Stories” in which a poem accompanying the tale of “The Elephant’s Child” opens with:

I keep six honest serving-men They taught me all I knew; Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

According to the Five W’s and One H Method, or Kipling Method, these six interrogative pronouns are the source of all questions and if you answer the significant questions that can be derived from these pronouns, your analysis will be more complete and you will formulate better solutions and decisions.

The six questions can serve as the basis for Information Gathering and Problem Solving, for Decision Making and Communication, and for Opportunity Analysis.

Information Gathering and Problem Solving:

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

Decision Making and Communication:

  • What is to be done? Why this? What else could be done?
  • Who will do it? Why them? Who else could do it?
  • When will it be done? Why then? When else could it be done?
  • Where will it be done? Why there? Where else could it be done?
  • Why will it be done? What is our purpose?
  • How will it be done? Why will it be done this way? How else could it be done?

Opportunity Analysis:

Step One: Write down the six basic questions in one column to structure your analysis of a given opportunity.

Step Two: Develop as many questions as possible related to the opportunity that start with each of the six pronouns. Write down all the questions in random order that come to mind, using the six pronouns to stimulate your thinking. Avoid the temptation to evaluate or answer the questions at this point.

Step Three: Organize your questions into a framework and start answering the questions.

Click Here for an example of how to use this three step exercise in analyzing the opportunity to offer an additional Sunday morning worship service.

The significance of using the Five W’s and One H Method is that none of the questions can be answered with a simple yes or no.  Use this method to insure you have considered the facts necessary for a thorough report, analysis or decision.


Posted on June 21, 2016
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5