December 22, 2007

Solution-focused change management (case)

Professionals beginning to apply the solution-focused approach often find the following challenging: How can I apply the solution focus in team situations? Here is a very brief summary of an example to provide some ideas. Recently, I coached a department of a large IT organization. Since many years, this department has taken care of the technical support of an IT system of a large insurance company. Both the organization of the client company (the insurance company) and their own company is changing due to which some problems have arisen. The department management has decided to organize a few meetings with the team to adjust and improve the way of working by the team. The purpose of the meetings was to generate some ideas. The department management had two specific themes to pay attention to during the meetings: 1) the subject of giving feedback to one another in order to improve the cooperation within the team, 2) strengthening the customer intimacy (management of the company expects each department to strengthen this orientation). In the meetings the following agenda has been used:
  1. Background and reason for the meeting (department manager explains)
  2. Goal of the session (what outcomes do we want from this session?)
  3. What does not have to change? (continuation question): 1. Which things don't have to change because they are already going well? 2. What improvements have already been realized since the invitation to the meeting has been sent? (this was a few weeks earlier), and 3. What does the client think about our service (department manager tells about feedback provided by the client)
  4. How do we want things to become? (future projection): 1. What will be better when we succeed in improving customer intimacy?, 2. How will the people in the client's organization know the difference? What will be the advantage for them? 3. How will others in our own organization (other department, board of directors etc.) notice we will have succeed in improving our customer intimacy and our performance?
  5. How will give each other effective feedback? 1. How will you notice we will have become more effective in this? 2. How can you contribute to improving feedback?
  6. What is our next step forward? 1. Which signals tell us that this change can become successful? 2. Which steps can the team take to create improvements? 3. Which specific step forward are you prepared to take? 4. How can the department management best contribute to the improvements?
During the beginning of the meetings some team member had to get into it at first. When discussing agenda point three they got going, however. During the course of the meetings excellent ideas were generated and at the end of each session very useful outcomes were produced which were enthusiastically welcomed by management.

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