How to Get Unstuck

Want to get unstuck? The goal is to critically assess what’s going wrong and find out what your options are to get unstuck, before agreeing on a viable solution. The Get Unstuck recipe is a curated set of five Workshop Tactics designed to help you find a way to probe a team or project to figure out what’s going wrong.

🧠  Learn how to…

✔️ understand your goals

✔️ get to the root cause

✔️ frame a problem to find a solution

✔️ find a solution to the worst possible situation

✔️ evaluate your solution

🃏 Cards used…
📚 Before you start

In person

  • Prepare (book room, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)


  • Prepare (book room, send call link, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens, Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)


  • Prepare (invite people, write and share agenda, create and send call invite)
  • Materials (Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, Microphone/headphones)
How much time?…
  • Over multiple days: three to five short sessions.
  • On one day: two two-hour sessions with a longer break in the middle.
✨ Extra reading…

👀 Let’s walk through this recipe using an example: low team morale and lack of motivation at an engineering firm.


Use Sailboat to understand your goals


⏱ Time: 1 hour

🧠 Core Objective: get the team’s imagination flowing and set an aspirational vision to work towards.

The Sailboat tactic helps you find out what your goals really are, the reasons behind them and what’s stopping you from achieving them. This exercise brings together teams and stakeholders to gain a shared understanding of their goals, drivers and barriers. You can find out what is slowing you down, or if the purpose or goals are not quite right. 

💡 Tip: make sure to talk about what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.


  1.  Since this is the start of your overall workshop, make sure to start with an icebreaker to warm everyone up.
  2. Draw a boat to represent the team/project and an anchor to represent the barriers. (3 minute)
  3. Draw an island to represent the goal. Ask each participant to write down the team/project goals on sticky notes. (7 minutes)
  4. Share and Theme Sort them near the island. (10 minutes)

  5. Ask the group to write down the drivers towards the goal on sticky notes. (5 minutes)
  6. Share and Theme Sort them near the sailboat. (10 minutes)
  7. Write down the barriers (problems) to achieving the goals on sticky notes. (5 minutes)
  8. Share and Theme Sort them near the the anchor. (10 minutes)
  9. Secret Vote the goals to find out what the groups believes are the most important goals. (5 minutes) 
  10. Finally, Secret Vote the barriers to understand what the most important problem to solve is. (5 minutes)

    ⬇️ In the next tactic, use you aspirational vision to work towards getting to the root cause with Five Whys.

Use Five Whys to get to the root cause


⏱Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

🧠 Core Objective: find out what is driving your team, and what may stop you achieving your vision.

The Five Whys tactic helps you get to the root cause of a problem affecting your project. This tactic channels your inner inquisitive toddler and asks “why?” five times to get to the heart of the issue. By identifying the root cause, you don’t waste time solving superficial problems. 

💡 Tip: use your barriers from the step before with Sailboat. 


  1. Invite key stakeholders to the workshop (use Stakeholder Map beforehand to help you invite the right people).
  2. Select a meeting leader to lead the discussion. (decide before the meeting)
  3. For each barrier in turn, ask “why?” five times. Include the previous answer in the question to keep a narrow focus on the problem. (20 minutes) 

  4. Use Who, What, When to assign responsibility for putting solutions into action. (10 minutes)

    ⬇️ In the next tactic, using what you learned about your team’s challenges and frame these problems with How Might We… questions.

Use How Might We... to frame a problem to find a solution


⏱ Time: 1 hour

🧠 Core Objective: frame the problem you discover in a way that invites a range of solutions.

The How Might We… tactic transforms problems and observations into solvable questions. A problem on its own can seem daunting. Rephrasing problems as questions is a powerful way to switch the mind from panic mode to solution mode.

💡 Tip: When making your questions in step three, ask yourself if your question allows for a variety of solutions. If it doesn’t, broaden it. 


  1. Gather information about the problem you are solving (research before the meeting, or use the barriers you identified and got to the root cause of in the previous steps).
  2. Explain how to write a How Might We… question: rephrase a problem you hear as a question, so that it asks for a solution. (5 minutes)
  3. Present the research to the team and ask them to write down any problems they hear as How Might We… questions on sticky notes. (20 minutes)
  4. Invite the group to stick all of their notes on a wall. (5 minutes)

  5. Then Theme Sort to find common themes. (5 minutes)
  6. Prioritise the questions with Priority Map. (20 minutes)

    ⬇️ In the next tactic, use your prioritised problems to find a solution with Reverse Brainstorm.


Use Reverse Brainstorm to find a solution to the worst possible situation


⏱ Time: 45 minutes

🧠 Core Objective: understand what skills each team member has so you can work better together.

The Reverse Brainstorm tactic allows you to come up with solutions to the worst, most despicable things that could derail your project. This exercise leads to absurd suggestions, which can give you ground-breaking solutions when reversed.

💡 Tip: try asking people for things that would get you all fired if you really want their most despicable ideas. 


  1. Identify and write down your problem (this can be your highest priority How Might We… question from the previous step) on a large surface so it’s clear for everyone to see. (3 minutes)
  2. Reverse the problem. (2 minutes)

  3. Run Idea Eight to generate ideas for the anti-problem. (20 minutes) 

  4. After sharing the ideas, collect them and randomly distribute the anti-ideas back amongst the group. (2 minutes)
  5. Ask the group to reverse the ideas they’ve been given. These will now become real solutions for the actual problem. (5 minutes)
  6. Do it again to gather even more ideas. (15 minutes)

    ⬇️ In the next tactic, take your solutions and evaluate them with Rose, Thorn, Bud.

Use Rose, Thorn, Bud to evaluate your solution


⏱ Time: 30 minutes

🧠 Core Objective: evaluate your solution to see if it holds up, before you go off and test if it will work.

The Rose, Thorn, Bud tactic allows you to thoroughly evaluate an idea, project or process, identifying positives, negatives and opportunities. Evaluate something as a group in order to find out what you really love about it, what might not be working and how to improve it. 

💡 Tip: try to use sticky notes that match each section: rose, thorn, bud.


  1. Select and agree on the thing you want to evaluate – for example, a solution you generated in your reverse brainstorm. (2 minutes)
  2. Write a short description or find a suitable image of the thing. Put it on the wall so everyone can see it clearly. (3 minutes)
  3. Explain the sticky note colour system: (3 minutes)

    Rose: red sticky notes (positive aspects of the thing)

    Thorn: yellow sticky notes (negative aspects, or things to watch out for)

    Bud: green sticky notes (potential opportunities to grow the idea)

    Using this system, ask your group to write as many points as they can within a time limit. (10 minutes)

  4. Theme Sort the sticky notes and take it in turns to discuss each person’s point. (12 minutes)

    ⬇️ Reflect on your core objectives, and figure out what might need to be done next. 

🗺️ Overview of Activities
💭 What next?….

⭐️ Congratulations you have completed Get Unstuck! You have now critically assessed what’s going wrong and figured out what your options are to get unstuck.

Now that you’ve agreed on a viable solution, don’t forget to lead a Retrospective after your project is complete.

Do you have questions, tips or tricks, etc? Join our Slack community of over 13,000 professionals.

2 thoughts on “How to Get Unstuck”

  1. These guides are invaluable! I am facilitating a workshop next week and I am so glad I found these resources. Thank you!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the consistency in how interactive and animated (there wasn’t a dull moment) in the entire process. It’s also needs little or no addition to make it fit the peculiarities of the corporate environment in Nigeria. Truly appreciative of you. Thanks very much.


Leave a Comment

Let us know what thoughts or questions you have about this guide so we can improve it.

If you leave us your email, we'll let you know if we update this guide based on your feedback.