The problem might be hard, but the solution can be easy. That’s a central insight of a solutions-focused approach. If we get too tangled up in thinking about the problem, analysing it and talking about it, we might miss the simplicity of doing something different – which may well be unrelated to the problem in any obvious way, yet improve things quickly. A nice example here, in this Guardian Weekend column by Oliver Burkeman.
In many forms of coaching and therapy, the practitioner has a plan. The course of the conversation depends relatively little on what the client wants. That makes it predictable and thus easy for the coach. But is the comfort of the coach or the therapist (rather than the client) the goal of the session?
In SF coaching sessions, we start by asking what the client wants. That’s the plan, and that’s as far as the plan goes. The rest depends upon the answer you get and whatever is needed to get a more detailed description of what’s wanted, descriptions of resources and descriptions of progress.
And the value of that? These questions will produce change. And they will keep you as the coach in the moment and on your toes.
One of the most important ideas in Solutions Focus is that the problem is not necessarily related to the solution. And this notion seems odd to many people. They wonder how can you get to a solution if you don't start with a problem.
A first step may be to imagine various issues where there is no problem.
Something I learned while facilitating a three-day event for a 30-member team from various continents was that the impacts of a change programme can be slow to manifest. In itself that’s not an issue - unless your objectives include instant results.
Still, there’s plenty you can do in the meantime to ensure that the results turn out favourably. You can do a great deal to re-assure yourself, your clients, your funders, that you are on the right tracks. It’s called 'positioning for impact'.
If elderly people are moved into sheltered accommodation or care homes, they suddenly face many problems, often including a sense of dislocation. It would be easy to discuss or investigate how bad this problem is, exactly what troubling effects it leads to, and other problem-focused lines of inquiry. Another option would be to do something worthwhile to give the new residents more of the feeing they want - of something familiar.
Mistakes are events you would rather have not happened (at least at the time), because the intention was to do something different, and the immediate consequence is most often unfavourable.
I like this story of a crisis handled by Hans Zeinhofer, who I met at a conference where delegates were discussing the application of solutions-focused ideas in organisations.