Question number 1: What is the solution focus all about?

Three-minute explanation

Imagine you are in the elevator with your CEO and she gives you three minutes to explain what this solution-focused mumbo-jumbo is all about. This is what you might say. To set the right tone and get her in the mood for what’s coming, you could start by saying:

“Good morning, Mrs. CEO. Thanks for asking me about our solutionfocused project. I’m glad to get a chance to talk to you about it.”

And of course, business comes first, that’s what the CEO is interested in:

“This project is on time and within budget, and this is mainly due to the efficiency of the solution-focused management approach.”

While you look her in the eyes to get her attention, you use a little yesset:

“It also fits very well with our culture. Here at XYZ company, we have always been pragmatic, haven’t we? At XYZ, we aim to get results as fast as possible.”

Now prepare the CEO for the more difficult part while at the same time you reassure her that you are really talking business:

“Well, being pragmatic and achieving the company goals fast and efficiently, that’s what solution-focused working is all about. The extra edge that the solution focus gives us lies in cooperation, the concentration on our strengths, and working on goals rather than spending too much time analyzing problems.

We don’t go searching for the causes behind problems because if you do that, more often than not, you end up with a situation in which you are looking for the person to blame rather than getting the problem solved. Just like when you have a flat tire — you don’t spend too much time trying to find out why it is flat. You get a new tire and try to make sure that it stays inflated.

Concentrating on our strengths enables us to utilize the company’s resources, both the personal resources of our staff and the resources of the company, optimally. To access the personal resources of our staff, we as managers ask them solution-building questions rather than providing them with all the answers. This way, we develop their competency and get customized results.

When a new solution is developed by our staff, we make sure it gets passed around so that everybody in our team and the company as a whole can benefit from the learning. You know the old saying: T.E.A.M. —
together everybody achieves more.”

So far this all sounds well and good to the CEO — however, is it credible? It’s time for an example:

“Last week, two of my sales managers were arguing with my project engineer about our new product. They told him that one of the clients complained, not about the quality of the product, but about the difficult technical manual that goes with it. The engineer started defending himself and the sales people kept going at him. Soon they were accusing each other of all kinds of mistakes. In the heat of the argument one of their colleagues came in and got involved in the discussion. He complimented both parties on their commitment to the company and on their efforts to do the best possible for the client. This took away some of the heat of the discussion. He then asked them if they had had similar problems in the past and how they had solved them then. It soon came out that in the past they had solved similar problems by writing an additional “getting started” manual and by putting the engineers in contact with the client to explain all the technical features. The project engineer said that his people would love to do that again, and the sales managers immediately saw a commercial opening towards the client. They agreed to propose this as a new procedure at the coming meeting for the complete team.”

Add a little clarification:

“Our people all encounter problems of some sort. This is perfectly normal, and it comes with business life. Working in a solution-focused way does not mean that we are problem-phobic nor that we are naive optimists. On the contrary, problems are there to be solved. The major difference is that we deal with problems from an entirely different viewpoint. We solution-focused managers see problems as golden signposts to  possible solutions. This model offers lots of insights and simple, ready-touse tools to enhance the productivity of our human resources.” 

Time to go in for the kill:

“You see, working in a solution-focused way is hugely practical and handson, no mumbo-jumbo involved. It’s about enhancing the ability to create sustainable solutions quickly, and this is essential for economic success. In the end, everybody benefits: our employees, we as managers, and the company as a whole. To put it in one sentence: “Simple works best.”

PING: The sound of the elevator at the top floor.

Excerpt from ‘The Solution Tango’

This book is designed like a rubik’s cube: it has six sides (or chapters), and each chapter speaks about the same solution-focused reality but from a different perspective.

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