What | So What | Now What

Anyone in the emergency management arena knows the disaster cycle of prepare, respond, recover – or at least one of the many forms depending on what is being highlighted.  A similar series of steps should be used for the information in disasters.  I’ve previously written about the DIKW model describe how bits of data moves to actionable information.  Recently, I was introduced to the three step “What | So What | Now What” and prefer it.


This is the same what from the who, what, when, where, why series.  Not to be confused with the what from WTF.  What has been observed?  What is known?  What is the problem?  Describe the current state.

So What

The bare essence of a disaster is not having enough resources to meet all the needs immediately.  Action needs to be prioritized based on the commander’s intent. The so what is: why does the what matter?  Why should I care about the what?  Describe why the current state is the problem.  This is often the context around a need.

Now What

Understanding the what and so what leads to the now what.  The now what is the way forward: identify the resources, action and timeframe to resolve the what.

This simple set of three questions can be asked anytime someone brings forward new information.  It is a great mentoring technique to help mentees focus their thought process to go beyond reporting problems and to recommend courses of action.