# What? So What? Now What?
> *What? So What? Now What?* offers a lightly structured process for reflective inquiry or difficult discussions. It encourages participants to first define/describe an idea, issue, or incident (What?), then connect it to relevant context or consequence (So What?), and finally consider options for future action (Now What?).
When individuals or groups of people try to make sense of something, they can wander all over the place without making much progress. We can easily conflate objective facts with subjective feeling. We can carry on complete conversations on a subject without ever defining our terms. What's often needed is a simple, lightweight, easy-to-remember process for organizing our individual and group sense-making and decision-making.
The "What? So What? Now What?" framework often fits the bill. It offers a three-stage process that supports clear thinking and communication, and that navigates around usual sandtraps of individual or group reflection.
The process is handy whenever there's an idea, issue, or experience that you want to unpack and understand in useful ways – for example: a core business concept, a recurring issue or confusion among a team, or a surprising or challenging shared experience.
The framework leads you to begin with facts, with specific descriptions and objective details. What happened? Who was/is involved? How will we define the key terms? What did/do we see or experience that can be stated as fact?
## So What?
With the idea, issue, or experience defined, you then turn to its context and consequence. What impact did/might this idea, issue, or experience have? What other ideas, issues, or experiences is it connected to? Where does it fit in our world and work? What emotions does it animate? What motivations does it advance or inhibit?
## Now What?
With the facts, the feelings, and the context now explored, you turn to how this idea, issue, or experience might inform future action or behavior. What will you do differently, more, less, or better now that you've thought it through? What are the possible consequences of each path of action? What policies or practices should you re-evaluate in this new context? How will you continue the conversation as you learn more?
The "What? So What? Now What?" process is often attributed to Rolfe, Freshwater, and Jasper and their book on critical reflection practices for nursing professionals (Rolfe, Freshwater, Jasper 2001). But it appears three decades earlier in Borton's book on process learning in K-12 education (Borton 1970).
Since its initial development and use in educational and practitioner settings, "What? So What? Now What?" has become a mainstay for consultants, facilitators, counselors, and coaches.
I first experienced it in a session with brilliant consultant and arts leader [Holly Sidford](https://heliconcollab.net/who_we_are/holly-sideford/), who employs a more assertive version than the gentle, reflective description above. She invokes this process when addressing a pressing organizational problem, a significant and suprising incident, or a decision to continue, evolve, or cancel a well-established program.
In the assertive version, the framing questions are more pointed:
- **What?** What are the facts, definitions, and details in play? How can we focus with clear eyes and fresh perspective on this topic?
- **So What?** Why does this issue/incident/program matter at all? How does it significantly advance our purpose (or distract us from it)? Does anyone care?
- **Now What?** Given this discussion, what are we urgently called to do next? How might we be bold and directed in our actions?
- Borton, Terry. *Reach, Touch, and Teach; Student Concerns and Process Education.* New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
- Rolfe, Gary, Dawn Freshwater, and Melanie Jasper. _Critical Reflection for Nursing and the Helping Professions: A User’s Guide_. Palgrave MacMillan, 2001.
- [Sidford, Holly, Co-Director, Helicon Collaborative](https://heliconcollab.net/who_we_are/holly-sideford/)
## Tags (click to view related pages)
#frameworks #substrate #functions/people_operations #functions/governance #sapling