Solutions Focus Approach

by Paul Z Jackson

Solutions focus in just a minute?

Making progress doesn’t always require in-depth, long or scheduled meetings. You may also notice that there are themes to your encounters. One manager we worked with was continually being asked to help his staff prepare for their difficult conversations with team members; another found that people often came to her asking for help when preparing for interviews.

Perhaps you regularly need to prepare for meetings, or need to make quick decisions, and would get benefits from having a tailored set of questions to ask yourself each time.

For these occasions, we use JAM (Just A Minute) sessions, so-named by Jackie Keddy of the Metropolitan Police. She based them in turn on the pioneering work of Michael Hjerth, a Swedish-based solutions-focused trainer and consultant, who calls them micro-tools.

The idea is to create short and concise lists of questions related to a specific topic that you can use yourself and with your colleagues.

JAM sessions should

  • Fit with a specific situation, such as meetings, presentations or making decisions
  • Use some or all of the solutions-focused tools
  • Take no longer than five minutes to work through
  • Consist of four to eight questions
  • Be self-contained and self-instructing.

Here’s an example of a JAM session:

JAM session

Preparing for a meeting

  • What is your task in this meeting? (Platform)
  • What would you like to see happen as a result of this meeting? (Future perfect)
  • What is the least that would satisfy you?
  • What have you done previously to achieve this kind of thing? (Counters)
  • What can you do this time?
  • What is your first step? (Small actions)

* adapted from micro-tool developed by Michael Hierth

And here’s another JAM session we developed that you may like to try:

JAM session

Preparing for a tricky conversation

  • What are your best hopes for this converation? (Platform)
  • What do you both want? (Future perfect)
  • What do you value about this person?
  • What’s worked in the past in similar situations? (Counters)
  • What will be the first sign that things are going well? (Affirm)
  • What else might be useful here?
  • What can you do now and/or in the meeting? (Small actions)

You can have a five-minute conversation that makes a significant difference. Try creating and using your JAM sessions and notice how people respond.