How to have a Solutions Focus

Jan 21, 2023 | Coaching

The Solutions Focus, as developed by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow, is a powerful approach to positive change and an approach to problem-solving that can be used with individuals, teams and organisations. It is described as being an ‘approach of radical simplicity’ as it avoids the complex, and often futile, task of looking for the cause of a problem. Instead, the focus is on solutions rather than problems, and strengths rather than weaknesses. By concentrating on what is working, rather than what is not, a positive and pragmatic path towards change can be found.

Focussing on solutions is a radical alternative to the more traditional approach of focussing on, analysing and reacting to problems. 

When is it really useful? When problems seem multi-dimensional or interlinked. When a team or an individual only seems able to ‘see’ the negatives and so no way out of a problem or combination of problems.

How does it work?

In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.’

  • Solutions not problems (so we avoid wasting time on problem talk)
  • In between (solutions tend to exist between people, rather than only one party)
  • Make use of what’s there (the seeds of the solution are always present)
  • Possibilities (dig into the past, present and future for possibilities)
  • Language (keep the language simple, big words can make matter complicated)
  • Every case is different (so start afresh every time)

Finally, it is important to remember that, in the words of Jackson and McKergow, ‘when we do anything more complex than necessary, we may be serving an interesting theory, but we are doing a disservice to the people involved in the issue.

Straightforward words.
Straightforward stories.
Straightforward viewpoints.

The rest is ignored to enable a gradual movement forward in spite of the difficulties. 



Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow The Solutions Focus, Nicholas Brealey International (2007)