Take it slow to go fast
Perceived and reported ‘failure’ is a hot topic for many organizations. ‘Post-mortems’ are a standard practice adopted by many industries to evaluate the success of an organized effort, endeavour, strategy, event, etc. They have a clear focus—to assess what went wrong. But what does that really achieve? Post-mortems are a formal way of practicing problem-focus. In Solution Focus management, problem-focus is diminished, as it is — more often than not — detrimental to progress.
Though identifying a problem can be helpful in business, devoting time to tearing apart the work of those in a team or individuals can be deflating. Criticism is best taken with a spoonful of sugar, but all too often, post mortems are delivered with a single grain! When an individual is criticized they tend to go on the defensive, rather than internalizing the feedback and growing from it effectively. Where problem focus wastes time fixating on problems — and often times humiliating those responsible for them — Solution Focus advances towards a resolution by asking better questions of those involved, focusing on what’s working or exceptions to the problem, and on take small steps towards improvement and progress.
Every team or individual has the resources to uncover a solid solution to an issue before any post-mortem is ever conducted. Instead of asking ‘what went wrong?’ organizations should start asking ‘what went right?’ and ‘what needs to happen to achieve what we want?’ These are just a couple of examples of better questions that lead a team or individual towards better outcomes. Solutions, not problems, are what will always lead a team or individual toward their desired outcome. They are not always the perfect fix for every issue at hand, but they achieve more than problem focus every time.
Think of a new driving student. A young driver often fears failure — and its consequences — and focuses on the obstacles that cannot be controlled such as other drivers, pedestrians, or a dog in the headlights. A good driving instructor always will advise the student to not focus on the obstacles in front of them, but instead on where they want to go. By looking ahead towards their destination, and by ignoring the things that they fear stand in their way, the student will naturally navigate their path effectively.
People fail. It is the reality that we will try, try again, and try harder…and not succeed. How we get back up is the real issue. Problem focus in the workplace creates a crippling environment for employees. Focusing on correcting failure and fixing flaws may help in the process of narrowing down undesired outcomes in a project or strategy, but does little to improve future efforts or morale. Solutions and a culture of solution focus create an environment where people fixate on getting back up in the most sustainable way they can imagine. They know where they want to go, they just need to look in that direction, focus on what they know works and take it slow to go fast.
Huffington Post Blog: “Slowing Down to Speed Up — How Successful Leaders Use Downtime to Enhance Creativity”
Forbes: “Slow Down to Speed Up“