Running a business can come with a lot of problems, and sometimes, things just aren't working right. You may have a recurring problem in your business or an uptick in mistakes or problems. You may feel unsure of what's coming next or how to get out of the rut that seems to have deepened around you.
Glenda Eoyang is the co-founder of Human Systems Dynamics Institute, a nonprofit human resource consultancy that helps leaders make sense of the patterns around them, and co-author of Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization (Stanford University Press, 2013). She says that to bring order from chaos and get yourself back on a forward-thinking track, you need to ask yourself questions about what is going on.
Here are her three suggestions of what to ask yourself to get unstuck.
1. What is going on around you?
This question relates to your current state of affairs. Stay awake and be mindful of the details in your business. What's going on in various departments? What is surprising here? What is happening on the competitive landscape? Everywhere you look, ask a question that starts with “What?” This helps you focus on the actions that are being taken and the conditions of your business.
2. So what does this mean?
While asking "what" keeps you in tune with the facts around you, "So what?" makes you focus on why those facts and details are important. It should be applied both in the sense of "So what does this mean?" and "So what can we do about it?"
In some cases, you may find that analyzing things you thought were important aren't while details that were ignored may be root causes of your rut. For example, if you're feeling burned out because you're constantly correcting employees who feel that they're not getting adequate communication, “so what” questioning might reveal how you can be more clear or it may reveal that employees need better training and clarity about what is expected of them. Either way, you have a plan of action to help you get unstuck from an undesirable situation.
3. Now what do you do?
Once you have an understanding of what is going on around you and what it means for the organization, you can ask "Now what?" to piece together a game plan. At this stage, you have the facts and you understand why they're important, and you need to decide what are you going to do with that information. Figure out your next steps, but "hold onto them lightly," Eoyang says. In other words, be ready to pivot if you see the new plan isn't working.
"Entrepreneurs are typically good at the 'now what' phase," she says. "They're full of ideas and ready to make a new plan for their businesses, especially when they have an understanding of where things are going wrong in the first place."