Team Alignment in 3 hrs: What, So What, Now What x 1–2–4-All (With free Mural template)

Takeshi Yoshida
8 min readJul 3, 2021

The situation is volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, overwhelming (VUCA”O”). We have an immediate, mission critical challenge to tackle. We need team alignment, and as leader I am tempted to exercise strong command — I am thinking “Now’s not the time for democracy.” Afterall, when push comes to shove, a leader has to do what’s right, right?

Maybe, maybe not. Command perhaps yes, but control, probably not. It’s all about the context. Commanding can be a leadership style, but commanding only in the leader’s context is control. If it is in the team’s context, i.e. there is alignment and shared ownership of the why, how and what of the teamwork, the leader leads in the team’s context. If we can call this leading with alignment “commanding,” then it’s good commanding.

“But we don’t have time.” Really? Not even three hours?

One of my time tested go-to team alignment facilitation tool is a combination of two models from Liberating Structures, a hybrid of “What, So What, Now What?” or “W3” and “1–2–4-All.” It can be done in as little as in three hours, and in physcial, remote or hybrid workshop setting. Results are solid — I personally can’t recall an unsuccessful outcome from any of the team sessions I’ve faciliated with this combo. (I’m very sure one of these days I will have a bad day, but the point is, I believe this is one of those rare relatively low-risk yet high outcome, “Goldilocks” zone intervention formats).

W3: What, So What, Now What

The “What, So What, Now What” process is inspired from management scientist Chris Argyris’ “Ladder of Inference” model published in 1990 (“Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning“) and also featured in Peter Senge’s book “Fifth Discipline” as an application of Systems Thinking.

Takeshi Yoshida

Chief Coach, Agile Organization Development ( — we are a tribe of change, transformation, innovation experts