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Reviewed Piece of SF work: Mark McKergow

A two day event for Jo Downs Handmade Glass, a small art/design/retail organisation. The event included the entire staff (around 30 people) in building progress at strategic, departmental and individual levels, as well as leaving the participants with SF skills to use for themselves in the future.

This event was an interesting challenge, featuring a large group and very wide range of participants (many of whom had never attended any learning event since leaving school). The company produces handmade glass and sells it through their six galleries/shops, as well as through other retailers. The organisation had grown quickly and somewhat haphazardly. The CEO Tom Downs (brother of artist Jo Downs) asked us to come in for a two day session to teach some SF ideas and tools and also to help the team use these tools to find ways forward with some of their challenges. We ended up moving forwards on management structure, communications between galleries and production, stock issues and housekeeping. We based our input for the event on our ‘SF Coaching with OSKAR’ model, as this is probably the simplest and most memorable version of SF we know. The bulk of the time was taken up with the team tackling a number of issues, using SF ideas with our help. The whole event was deemed a great success by Tom Downs and the participants.

Client Quotes:

I found you very responsive to our needs. You seemed to adapt the workshop as we went along to meet our requests and ensure it was being applied to issues at hand. We successfully tackled some very big and long-standing issues in the business. Tom Downs, CEO, Jo Downs Handmade Glass.

Candidate’s Summary:

I was very grateful to the reviewers, Shaun Lincoln and Yasuteru Aoki, for their engagement with the material. They found many ways in which the SF approach runs all the way through this piece of work ‘like a stick of rock’. SF is a very valuable tool in the early stages of setting up an event like this, in terms of building up with the different stakeholders an idea of what would be useful and how to go about it. Then the process of inviting the participants and engaging them on the day can be done in an SF way. The use of many SF process during the event is perhaps less surprising, but I was very pleased with the way we flexed and morphed the programme to work with the emerging issues, at a pace that seemed right for those involved, AND managed to achieve the various goals agreed at the outset. One thing that struck me from the review was the ways in which the process could have been continued after the event; even though this was not something we had been specifically commissioned to do, I would think about this more carefully next time.

Reviewers Summary:

This case is a clear example of a Solution focused piece of work with a clear beginning, middle and end that shows both through words and pictures how Mark McKergow and Jenny Clarke used a Solution Focused approach with Jo Downs Handmade Glass to great effect for the whole organisation. What is particularly impressive is how Mark and Jenny used a Solution Focused approach from the very first phone call with the client to the final follow up evaluation email, and how their ability to help the client recognise their own strengths and resources, and identify simple, practical steps to do even more of what works, and to take stock and change what doesn’t, is of enormous benefit to Jo Downs.

We were particularly impressed with how Mark and Jenny showed great flexibility over the two days deliv-ery, constantly adapting to the clients’ needs and strengths, and also how they managed to get the whole or-ganisation into the room and use the client’s own language and resources to find new ways of doing things. The piece of work is too full of clues to list here, but what runs through all of these like a ‘stick of rock’ is the resource orientation Mark and Jenny brought to the client to help build a description of a ‘preferred future’ before the two days and then over two days in January 2009 establish where elements of this ‘preferred future’ were already happening, and what could be small, but high impact steps to do even more of this. What also makes this review stand out are the tangible benefits of change, and wonderful touches such as the ‘solution room’ that indicate that the overnight benefits will be sustainable. What remains, as Mark points out, is perhaps more on the end piece in terms of how the client has managed to sustain this progress and how Solution Focused follow up is itself a powerful vehicle for sustaining change. Overall, throughout the review, we have seen and discovered real tangible examples of outstanding Solution Focused practice that inform and explain how and why Mark and Jenny work as well as they do.

Second Reviewer summary:

What impressed me most was that practical changes in the client organization’s daily workplace immedi-ately after the candidate’s seminar are so clearly reported in the client’s document. From reading the client’s document it is clear that the whole organization was re-vitalized by letting the workers be more willing to give constructive feedback to each other resulting in the well prepared stock and cleanliness of the work-place. The photos from the seminar capture the fun, mingling of the young and old, and utilizing the familial touch of the meeting room which could have been considered not good enough from a normal standard training perspective. I, as a solutionist, was deeply encouraged that well-adapted and well-conducted SF work can make such a big difference for an entire organization in such a short time

About The Candidate:

Dr Mark McKergow is co-director of sfwork – The Centre for Solutions Focus at Work. He is an international consultant, speaker and author. Many people around the world have been inspired by his work in Solutions Focus – presented wth his inimitable blend of scientific rigour and performance pizzazz. Mark is a Board member of SFCT, and was instrumental in starting the SOLWorld network of SF practitioners in 2002. He is also an accredited UKASFP practitioner. Mark is a global pioneer applying Solutions Focus ideas to organisational and personal change. He has written and edited three books and dozens of articles; he is also one of the leading practitioners using SF processes in team and organisational development. Through sfwork Mark offers consulting, training, supervision, coaching and many ways to discover and engage with SF practice.

Mark McKergow
Mark McKergow
SFiO Director
SFiO Reviewed Practitioner
InterAction Contributor
SFiO Contributor

Dr Mark McKergow is co-director of sfwork – The Centre for Solutions Focus at Work, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is an international consultant, speaker and author. Many people around the world have been inspired by his work in Solutions Focus – presented wth his inimitable blend of scientific rigour and performance pizzazz.