May 16, 2007

External solutions versus internal solutions

Often, when we try to realize individual or organizational change, we rely on external solutions. By 'external solutions' I mean solutions that are based on things that come from outside of the system (the individual or organization). These solutions may be based on success case descriptions in the management literature, they may be based on empirical studies or they may be based on the experience and expertise of a management consultant. External solutions are thus generic solutions based on generalized knowledge. Change based on external solutions is often both expert driven and fashion driven. New management concepts, often called ‘hypes’ seem to spread like contagious viruses. But, in many cases, implementation of these external solutions does not lead to the success that was hoped for.
External solutions raise the following questions with many organization members: (1) Will that work here? (2) Do we know how to implement it here? (3) Are we capable of implementing it? In many cases the answer to all three questions is 'no…' Understandably, the consequence is cautiousness and hesitation.
Solution-focused change makes use of the fact that no problem is constantly happening. There are always exceptions to the problem. Often, these exceptions are situations in which the outcomes you seek are already to some extent happening. Identifying and analyzing these exceptions is a powerful tool in solution-focused change. This process will help you find solutions that are internal. They are based on earlier success. They have been applied before and have proven useful. While external solutions will often create insecurity and hesitation, internal solutions generate the opposite: confidence and eagerness to apply them. Briefly put, the advantage of internal solutions is: they fit!
The reasons internal solutions fit are threefold: the people involved (1) know how to apply them, (2) have the skill to apply them, and (3) trust in the relevance and effectiveness of the solution.
How they know these things? Easy, they have already experienced it in situations of past success. The fact that internal solutions fit so well creates a sense of ownership, which makes it easier for people to restart using them and to keep on using them. Focusing on internal solutions is focusing on what is already there, instead of what is not there. It is based on the assumption that the person or organization has the resources available to be successful. It is an appreciative way of looking at individuals, teams and organizations. It implies they are already good.
More about this here: Managing with what is there

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