Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

This post could be read as a follow up to last year’s post on by Martin van Gogh ‘R&D goes SF’ . At the end he wrote: ‘Next time: What is our goal and how are we following up?’ In this post I’ll write a bit about the following up.
Almost a year later we see more and more results from using SF in our organization. Not just in a coaching context, but in all aspects of our day to day work.
At the beginning of this year, our software development team decided to start experimenting with working ‘Agile’.
For those new to this terminology my short summary would be :

“Working with a bunch of technical ‘best practices’ combined with more communication, listening, giving and receiving feedback, eagerness to learn together, finding your own solutions, positive goals and small iterative steps in a team”

The last part sounds familiar? That’s what I thought when starting to work in an agile way with my team!

An important part in working as an Agile team is continuous learning. For this we have a retrospective meeting once every two weeks. In this meeting we talk about what we did the last two weeks, what went well and what could be improved. For this I find the SF scaling technique very useful. I started with a scale from 1 to 10 and asked all team members to write down a number for how well they thought these last couple of weeks went. Everybody wrote down their number and put it on the scale on a white-board. Next I asked them to write down what was already in that number and write it down on a post-it note. After this we also put these notes on the white-board and they explained what they had written. The next step was to ask them to use another post-it to write down what could be done to go one step forward for example from a six to a seven. This all gave us lots of ideas about improving the way we work and gave us individual and team goals to work on!

To me this is just a small example of how well SF can be used in the daily work of a (profit) organization

The learning continues, for me and my team. SF and Agile, they really work together and I’m looking forward to talking to and learning from other people who have similar experiences!


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Comment by Colinda de Beer on May 6, 2010 at 20:24
started a blog on using SF in agile software development... Using what works
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on May 2, 2010 at 15:57
Yes, "to use what is (was in the past sometimes) working" for me is one of the most important aspects of SF. And IMHO this is more important than "focusing the solution as a goal".
IMHO we have to be careful not to mix up SF with the "GROW", which may be much more "familiar" for "technical" oriented persons: The "O" in GROW stands for "Obstacles" and "Options":
>> There will be Obstacles stopping the client getting from where they are now to where they want to go. If there were no Obstacles the client would already have reached their goal.
>> Once Obstacles have been identified the client need to find ways of dealing with them if they are to make progress. These are the Options.

This is very close to one important principle of "Scrum" and "Lean": "To improve efficiency you have to identify and remove the impediments".

In SF we don't ask for obstacles and impediments, we look on "already experienced positive differences" instead.
More about this was discussed recently in Alistair Cockburn's homepage as "Delta Method".
Comment by Colinda de Beer on May 2, 2010 at 15:31
I found that this session was really inspirational for a lot of people. As technical people we are often used to looking for the problem first and then solving it.
Although not trying to find the problem but instead focusing on solutions was new for most of them, I found that most people where really interested in the idea of SF. As on other occasions I found that the Agile community is very open to learning and trying out new things! Let’s look at it as a first small step….

To me it is important to ‘use what is working’ in combining Solution Focused and Agile software development. If we find a bug in our software we usually have to find the source of the problem before we can try to solve it. But even finding the problem can be done in a SF way! No blame, looking at what went well before and using small steps….
Personally I feel that SF is a great addition to the ‘soft skills’ part of Agile. Daily stand-ups, planning and estimating, retrospectives, in short everywhere people are communicating together!
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on May 1, 2010 at 21:58
In this slides I see, that "Solution focused" is understood "to focus the solution as a goal". For me this is a view on SF I cannot fully share: For me in SF the "goal" is not a clear point, it serves more as a "motivator" for the next (small) step. And for me in SF "tools" like scaling or the miracle questions are means to "liquefy" the recent view. I understand the word "solution" more as a "solvent for problem trance". And therefore the "positive differences" and "positive exceptions" in the past for me are as important as visualizing the future.
So: I would like to see more of this ""positive differences in the past" in Pierluigi's slides.
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on May 1, 2010 at 21:34
Yes, indeed, there is an important difference between the "5xW"-Questions and SF .... what reactions did you hear?
And: IMHO there is also an important difference between "TOC" (Theory of constraints), which is well established in Lean and Agile Management and SF . And for me the 5xW fit fine to TOC and to "cause - effect" - based systems but not so well to complex and social systems.
Comment by Colinda de Beer on May 1, 2010 at 21:26
Comment by Colinda de Beer on May 1, 2010 at 21:19
Didn't know about the Xing-community.

Was at mini XPDay Benelux last week en attended session by Pierluigi Pugliese about Solution focused approach to Agile Coaching

Great to see and hear the reaction of people who are used to asking 'the 5 why's' to the SF approach!
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on April 22, 2010 at 11:08
btw: do you know this Xing-Community also?
Agile Methods
Comment by Colinda de Beer on April 22, 2010 at 10:59
Hans-Peter, thank you for your comments. I'll go and check out this yahoo group. Already twittert the above blog post about SF and agile retrospecitives to the agile coaching community!
Comment by Hans-Peter Korn on April 22, 2010 at 10:04
... and today I received from that Yahoo-Group "retrospectives · Retrospective Facilitators" this posting from one of the list-members:

"I can recommend you "interviewing for solutions" from de Shazer and Berg, pioneers of solution-focused brief therapy. Although talking about therapy, it's been very valuable to my individual coaching practice.

I just realise that I have yet to use that with teams ;( ! Knowing that it works Well with a problem already identified to refocus on one's own behaviour, I wonder if it can also be used to skip the problem framing a team. Maybe interesting when the team has one big blurry problem...? Looks actually quite alike AI, which I have rather used for 'starting with a vision' than for 'behaviour shifts'. Well certainly some interesting facilitation ahead at some time... "

So: SF is spreading out!
Cheers, Hans-Peter




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