When you have a one time event (one or two days with an organisation), you might want to start the process before the participants meet, in order to get as much out of your time together as possible.
One way to do so is to remind participants of the event just before it happens, and ”get them hooked” on the theme of the event. In the Solution Focused approach one way could be to remind participants of what is already working well: What kind of concrete, practical, everyday situations do they experience where something works in a way they find useful.
Mail example, asking for what works well
This is an email that was sent out to the of participants; several teams in an organisation, where the goal of the day was to come up with initiatives on how to make the workplace environment better.
Before I was called in to plan and facilitate the day, there had been a workplace evaluation that showed a low score in many aspects of the organisation.
The theme of the day was chosen by the management: ”the world’s best workplace” to show the employees that they took the issue seriously. So in order to begin before I started the day, each participant got this personal message from me:
Dear [persons name]
In two weeks we are all going to meet and spend a whole day working together on the topic:
The world’s best workplace
We are going to talk about how we can create a better work environment with high professionalism, less stress and more fun and learning.
Before we meet, I have an observation task for you: From now on and until we meet, please notice any small signs at your work that indicate that this company actually has potential to some day become the world’s best workplace.
Signs can be such as:
- a job accomplished well – something you were actively involved in
- a conversation, presentation or a meeting that was slightly different from what you usually experience.
And please think about:
- what happened that made it different?
- what else?
- how was that useful to you?
- if something can be learned from that – what would it be?
- what else could be learned?
We will share each other’s discoveries when we meet.
Looking forward to meeting you!
Best wishes, Jesper H Christiansen
(– your facilitator for the day)
The intention of this email was to create an awareness of details of a good workplace environment. Helping participants to focus on what’s already working, at least a little bit. A positive side effect is that the email also introduces words and ways of speaking that I later use at the event.
When we meet I then start the day with letting them share their observations in small groups. Which means I begin the day with their own positive experiences.
I can’t expect that participants understand the principles of SF, so I have to make a framework with a tight focus on possible solutions, and at the same time I have to make room for expressing wishes for change and to talk about these wishes (that some people call ”problems”).
With a beginning like this, where they share observations, I explain the overall purpose. Why have I given them this observation task? I tell them that we only have very little time together and that my best hopes – as their facilitator for this event – is to make sure that they can leave the room at least knowing one or two small concrete steps towards ”the world’s best workplace”. This to make sure that today’s valuable work becomes more than just talking.
So if we’re not able to change the whole organisation today, at least we will know where to start.
Some principles of being together
I invite them to follow some simple principles for the day:
√ What is working well?
We look at what is working well (or at least a little bit well), in order to either use that as a platform to do more of it, or to make sure that we don’t need to talk more about that.
√ What could be usefully different?
We look at what kind of changes can help this organisation move in the right direction. We always look at what we will be doing differently when these changes happen. In other words: the positive profitable outcome of changes.
√ Look for solutions instead of problems
When something is not working in a desirable way, we will not turn into experts in ”why-not’s” and ”who’s-to-blame”. Instead, we will talk about what we would be doing instead if it was working, – and then focus on ways of getting there.
Unless the whole building is on fire, this usual creates a positive platform that the participants can relate to and are willing to work on.