By DANIEL MEIER
Solutions Books, 2005
ISBN 3-8334-0668-2, pp 170
This book is exactly what it says on the label-a pragmatic guide to team development-and is a very useful addition to an expanding stable of positive approaches to development over the last few years.
Solution Focus is the antithesis of the more familiar practice of problem solving. A huge industry exists devoted to seeking out and analysing the causes of 'problems' (personal, interpersonal and organisational) in order to 'solve' problems. First understand, then cure has long been the cultural mantra.New thinking, first expressed in the 1980s, began to put more energy into looking forward with dreams of how it could be than in the backward, stagnant analysis of problem perpetuation. It was found that concentration on what was already working well could lead to sustainable problem resolution much more quickly and effectively. Hence there began a shift in some quarters away from cause and effect towards solution-focused strategies based on the construction of a desired future.
This is an approach well-known to many therapists and coaches working with individuals. What Meier has achieved is a workable blueprint for helping groups progress forward in a direction they collectively wish to pursue. As Ben Furman says in his foreward: "The book gives you the steps of the dance. Follow these steps and you will be amazed how this simple-and profound-approach can help you help teams achieve their goals . . . . . "
Meier, a Swiss coach specialising in team development, calls his 'dance' the SolutionCircle. It is based around four seemingly self-evident principles: Focus on Solutions (talk solutions rather than problems); Build on Success (do more of what already works); Illuminate Resources (uncover existing competences and skills); and Find New Perspectives (change the focus of your awareness).
To dance a team out of its unique communication confusions, personality tensions, change upheavals, trust breakdowns or collaborative deficiencies, Meier has choreographed an eight stage 'hopscotch'. Whereas the circle concept suggests a logical progression round the floor, this dance allows stages to be skipped, or revisited when the need arises.
Each step of the SolutionCircle is clearly explained with guidance tips on how to actually work with teams. There follows a chapter on setting up a workshop which includes personal preparation, practical planning, success factors and a sample programme for a one-day team workshop.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, that's covered too. This book is full of tips, suggestions and examples for facilitating teams engaged in self-development who might field awkward questions. Meier is also very conscious of the need to ensure positive momentum is maintained with a useful section on continuing support.
Teams are dynamic, complex systems which can rarely be controlled effectively in a predictable, linear fashion. The approaches suggested within this book could easily be dismissed as too simplistic. Used sensitively they have a subtlety and depth that has produced proven results. That said, Meier recognises his guidance is not a panacea. It is an overview; a starting place, but nevertheless a very good starting place.
The book should appeal to a wide range of developers. Although specifically about teams, the approach is equally relevant to individual coaching. It is a well-written, highly practical approach to techniques and resources that will benefit managers and team leaders as well as have value for experienced coaches and organisation developers.
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