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The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE [Paperback]

Paul Z. Jackson , Mark McKergow

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Book Description

Dec 14 2006
Authors Mark McKergow and Paul Jackson coach readers in the new methods of problem-solving. This revolutionary, practical alternative to traditional problem-solving processes will help readers identify what is working within an organization and amplify it—placing the focus on what is possible, rather than what isn’t.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing; Second Edition edition (Dec 14 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904838065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904838067
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #330,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"All good coaches focus on potential, affirmation and solutions. This book is a must. It is simple, easy to read and filled with illustrative examples" Sir John Whitmore, author of Coaching for Performance

About the Author

Paul Z. Jackson is an inspirational consultant, trainer, facilitator, and coach. Since graduating from Oxford University, he has been a print journalist, a senior comedy producer with BBC Radio 4, founder of the More Fool Us improvisation comedy team, and a university lecturer. He is also the author of Impro Learning, 58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training, and The Inspirational Trainer. Visit his website at Mark McKergow is an international consultant and speaker who develops solutions-focused routes for organizational and personal development. He started his career in the electricity industry as a nuclear physicist. He trained at BFTC Milwaukee and MRI Palo Alto and is in demand as a keynote speaker. He has pioneered the use of solutions-focused methods in organizational and business contexts and is the only British-based person to have been elected as a member of Jack Canfield's Transformational Leadership Council. Find out more about his latest work at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Test of Time Feb. 5 2007
By Caldwell Nancy - Published on
When I read the first edition of The Solutions Focus, I compared it to Getting To Yes, a classic that changes the way you see the world and act in it. Well, I can now say that SF has more than survived the test of time. It has become part of "the way I do things" both as a consultant and in my personal life.

So I was curious to see what a second edition would bring.

And the answer: It brought some fantastic "Aha" moments, such as the story of James, a manager who feels his second-in-command is out to get him. Using the OSKAR coaching model, James successfully resolves their differences. WOW, of course, what a brilliant and fresh approach to conflict management! The O in OSKAR stands for Outcome, starting with the desired result and moving toward it...

As a corporate negotiation consultant and trainer with more than a penchant for creativity, let me say bravo and thanks..
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book for coaches and organisational change agents July 26 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE (Second Edition) by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow (Nicholas Brealey International, 2007) ISBN 1-904838-06-5

When the first edition of The Solutions Focus came out in 2002 it marked a genuine step forward in thinking about organisational change. It brought the insights of Solution Focused Therapy (developed in the late seventies by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg) into the workplace. The second edition, published in 2007, broadens its usefulness to coaches with the addition of new chapters outlining Jackson and McKergow's OSKAR coaching model, manager as coach, team coaching and solution-focused approaches to management consulting.

The beauty of the solution-focused approach is twofold; firstly, like the compatible Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach, it focuses on what is working and what is desired rather than on problems and trying to solve them, so it tends to have a heartening and morale-raising effect on individuals, teams and organisations that experience it.

Secondly, and rather unlike AI (or my own background discipline of NLP for that matter), it emphasises the need for simplicity and is refreshingly free from academic or humanistic psychology jargon and what many people in organisations, desparate for practical ways of dealing with ever-increasing demands, may view as "tree-hugging hippy crap" (as one participant at a recent AI event I helped facilitate put it recently).

The book's writing style does justice to its subject. I knew from taking an accelerated learning course with them about 10 years ago that Jackson and McKergow would present the material in an intelligent and brain-friendly way (the "reformed physicist" McKergow in particular is possessed of the proverbial "brain the size of a planet", while Jackson's background in improvisational comedy adds immediacy and lightness of touch) - and so it proves, with each chapter divided into short, easily digestible sub-headings, and plenty of illustrations and practical examples.

The book gives us six principles of what they refer to as `The Solutions Focus', organised under the acronym SIMPLE:

Solutions not problems
Inbetween - the action is in the interaction (between people)
Make use of what's there (the parts of the solution that are already happening in the current situation)
Possibilities - the resources and possibilities that will take us towards the solution
Every case is different

Something like the "Inbetween" principle (the idea that some aspects of the solution exist in the interaction between people or as emergent qualities of the system, rather than being owned by any one individual) must have been present in solution-focused therapy as it applied to families. It was a new one on this reader though, as I had previously only used solution-focus in therapy and coaching with individuals. By emphasising the principle here, Jackson and McKergow build a very useful bridge between using solution focus with individuals and applying it to teams and organisations.

We are also given a clear description of the various tools of the Solutions Focus approach. The present situation, the starting point for change, is described as the `Platform' (with its connotations of somewhere to depart or lift off from). The desired outcome - what it would be like if the problem disappeared completely - is the `Future Perfect'. Resources, things that are already working, and times when parts of the solution are happening already are called `Counters'. This metaphor didn't work quite as well for me. I suppose in some kind of board game analogy. The other tools are Affirming whatever is helping, taking Small Actions (which can make a big difference, and in any case add up), and the extremely useful Scaling (of progress towards a solution, confidence in a chosen option working, or commitment to a course of action) on a scale of 0 to 10.

The part of the book from which I got the most value is the new material added for the second edition. The authors give many practical examples of how to use the Solutions Focus approach in coaching individuals, team coaching, and organisational consultancy. There is also a useful chapter on coaching as a manager.

One of the most helpful insights (no news to experienced managment consultants, I'm sure, but very helpful to someone like me with a background in individual coaching who is increasingly moving into organisational changework) is about the need to find a `customer for change'. This is someone in an organisation who is aware that it is time for a change, and prepared to do something about it. If the consultant can't find one, their change interventions are unlikely to get very far.

Also new to the second edition is the OSKAR coaching model. The acronym stands for Outcome, Scaling, Know-How, Affirm and action, and Review. In some ways this seems to have been bolted on to the rest of the book; looked at from one angle, it seems merely a relabelling of some of the tools described earlier. `Know-How', for example, seems to be much the same as the resources and abilities described as `Counters' earlier in the book.

My other quibble with the model is that it is more a description of tools than a process model; although the authors say it can be used as a process ,the Scaling, Know-How, and the `Affirm' part of `Affirm and action' might be used both when eliciting what is working in the current situation (the `Platform'), and when deciding what to do to get closer to the `Future Perfect'. Also, the authors say that the `Outcome' stage would include both establishing the Platform and envisioning the `Future Perfect', while the sample questions they give are exclusively about the future, which might lead the careless reader to skimp on exploring the current situation. These are however minor caveats, which I hope a third edition will eventually resolve.

The book finishes up with a short history tracing the evolution and intellectual roots of the Solutions Focus model, placing it in a lineage which includes Bateson's work on paradox and levels of abstraction, Erickson's concept of utilisation, and complexity theory.

All in all, The Solutions Focus is an eye-opening book for anyone looking for greater simplicity and effectiveness in coaching, team-building, or organisational change.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Model, Too Wordy April 26 2013
By Stephen - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a counseling student, and nearly certified Life Coach; I have found that having a solutions focus in my sessions is one of the most helpful things for me, and is very beneficial for my clients. I am all on board with the SIMPLE acronym and use it frequently when I am working with my clients.

The only down side I have with this book is that it is too wordy. The ideas and model the authors propose is SOLID, but I feel like they could have written a much smaller book that got to the point much quicker. You spend much of the time in each chapter reading about stories (which are helpful) about the point the authors are making, but they seem to have too much fluff; which seems quite unnecessary.

I highly recommend this book because it is extremely useful, practical, and is beneficial for anyone; regardless of whether or not they work with people on a daily basis.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read and Applicable Content. March 25 2013
By Jonathan Stanton - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am currently reading this book for my Executive Coaching MS program at UT Dallas and I am already using the information contained in the book to help resolve some issues I am having with my current organization that are experts in the problems but amateurs in solutions.
By Carl Casanova - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is the book for coaching. It teaches and models the Solutions focus approach thoroughly and competently.
Here at New Vibe Training, it is one of our three textbooks used for our six month Coach Traininng courses.
We have used it for 11+ years.

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