An SFiO peer review conversation on a SF piece of work
Wim Sucaet, reviewed by John Wheeler and John Brooker
Sep 8, 2020
Introduction by John Brooker
This recording (at bottom of review) and the PDF review comments below are intended to demonstrate an example of a real SFiO review process in action. We hope that it might awaken your interest in having a piece of work reviewed by your peers, or attract you to become a reviewer; if you have already been reviewed.
However, every review brings up a lot of useful learning on Solution Focus and you are encouraged to listen and read the comments to pull out some important lessons on SF in practice. Some you might extract from this review are:
- How can you facilitate a multiple stakeholder project with SF?
- Who is the client in a multiple stakeholder project?
- What is the importance of language?
- How important is silence?
- What might be the qualities of a good SF practitioner in action?
- If you want to find out further information on the SFiO review process you can find it here.
To read Wim’s article from this case study, please see Page 5 of this edition.
Reviewers’ Comments on Wim Sucaet’s review
First Reviewer’s Summary – John Wheeler
There is much that impresses me about Wim’s use of the Solution Focused approach to support, facilitate and encourage change in his organisation.
At the outset Wim faced the challenge of being an agent for change for an organisation of which he was part. This required him to engage with multiple stakeholders who were in a range of hierarchical positions in relation to himself. The piece of work has provided good evidence of how the SF approach enabled Wim to treat each participant as a client, without being constrained by hierarchical difference.
In the review we learned more about how Wim had become a bridge between people lower and those higher in the hierarchy. When organisations go through structural changes it is typical for “them and us” stories to come to the fore. Wim has demonstrated how a SF approach has helped to establish a greater sense of everyone being in it together.
The review also demonstrated how Wim’s SF practice facilitated the spread of SF thinking and talking to others in the organisation. When the work started, SF as a resource was principally in Wim’s hands. Given that the challenges of organisational change are ongoing I am encouraged to see that the organisation no longer depends entirely on Wim to contribute SF thinking and talking. Others now know the SF approach, which increases the likelihood that a critical mass of people in the organisation will be able to sustain the change management in a collaborative, strengths-based and future focused manner.
Second Reviewer’s Summary
I agree with all that John Wheeler has said, it is an excellent piece of work, carried out with a Solution Focused mindset. I think there are some useful highlights from Wim’s report which might help all SF practitioners to succeed even more:
- The initial difficulty of identifying the “client” in a multiple stakeholder environment; then the realisation that all are clients in some way and we should treat them as such, though we may use slightly different ways to interact
- The need to trust that the SF approach works, even when faced with difficulties. This is not to say that practitioners should be “solution forced”, but recognise that using SF in a problem focused environment can make it difficult for people to accept at first, yet that is not a reason to immediately abandon it
- The philosophy that there is “SF inside” all people (a concept I first heard from Aoki san). We should look for where it is already revealed, we should encourage them to reveal it, yet we must accept that not all may want to do that. By having this philosophy however, we are more likely to be successful
- The reference to Chris Iveson’s quote: “The most important thing is the pragmatic position we choose to take in believing that the client can change.” Taking this position will not guarantee success but make it much more likely.
I recognised six potential qualities of a good SF practitioner in this work and reflect that this might be a useful conversation for the SF community to develop further:
- Thorough in the use of SF
- Challenging of the standard approaches to change
- Curious, e.g. going beyond the research “numbers” to having conversations about the numbers
- Championing SF with colleagues
- Persistent in overcoming difficulties
- Diplomacy in building bridges between stakeholders
- Thank you to Wim and John W. It was a privilege and pleasure to be a reviewer.
I learned several things during this process. Thanks to the review process, the writing of the piece of work and the video meeting with the reviewers, I rediscovered my strengths as a person and as a SF practitioner. It also helped me to reflect further on some aspects that I found very important. For instance:
- When you work with several clients and stakeholders, I asked myself who is the client then? I think it’s important to engage with all the multiple clients. In my work the pupil is the main client but as soon as I speak with colleagues, stakeholders, partners, they become the client in our interactions. So, every time I interact, I sort of have a new client.
- The importance of language in creating an atmosphere that connects the different clients and their perspectives with each other. By doing this people are more willing to work together and trust each other.
- Adapting my language to the language of the clients and stakeholders. This didn’t only help me to understand them better, it also helped me in building alliances with them.
- The quality of attention we have for each other. Using silent moments to let them reflect, letting people listen to each other (and talk afterwards) are very important in creating a respectful environment.
- People want to be taken seriously, therefore not necessarily literally. I learned this in a webinar of Alan Kay about working with stakeholders and it helped me a lot in my work. I work with the meanings of their words. And working with these meanings made me as a facilitator more capable of building bridges between all perspectives.
- By asking people SF questions you raise the chance that they give more SF answers. I noticed a lot of SF clues in the talking, thinking and behaviour of my colleagues.
- I chose to trust the people and the process that evolves. Observing what happens in the meantime and utilizing what might be useful helps me stay close with my clients and so I can build further on what’s useful.
A big thank you to John Wheeler and John Brooker, who stretched my thinking by asking me great questions!
What was good about this work for you, the client?
- “The way Wim spoke with people: the way he used language and challenged people with good questions. I also appreciated his sustained efforts.”
- “This process had a good flow. The colleagues agreed on the working model we created based on all the input we received, even the labour unit. Over the last years there were a lot of critics about the communication of the board and feelings of fake participation. This isn’t an issue anymore now.”
- “Although there are still certainly several opinions, our colleagues seem to be involved. And for me, this involvement of them was a goal on its own.”
About the interviewee
Wim Sucaet is a quality care coordinator of the VCLB Regio Gent, a centre for pupil guidance in Belgium. Before becoming a co-ordinator, he worked as a social worker. He has built up experience in guiding pupils from 6 – 25 years old. Youth at risk are his main target group.
Besides that, he has a side activity where he gives therapy, group sessions, workshops and trainings. Wim started his SF adventure in 2009 and has followed several SF trainings, including the Bruges model at Korzybski Institute where he got his degree as a master solution-focused practitioner. His contact details are: email@example.com