Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

Carin Mussmann
  • Female
  • Zürich
  • Switzerland
Share on Facebook MySpace

Carin Mussmann's Friends

  • Koen Dumont
  • Marianne Geurts
  • Barblina Risch
  • Nicola Buckingham
  • Christine Salkeld
  • Doris Regele
  • Loraine Kennedy
  • Masashi Ishikawa
  • Urs Limacher Koechlin
  • Dominik Godat
  • Katalin Hankovszky
  • Pirjo Lampinen
  • Mark Allenby
  • Carl Plant
  • Sue Lickorish

Carin Mussmann's Groups

Carin Mussmann's Discussions

Herausfordernde Gespräche mit Mitarbeitenden
2 Replies

Started this discussion. Last reply by Carin Mussmann Nov 27, 2014.

Gifts Received


Carin Mussmann has not received any gifts yet

Give a Gift


Carin Mussmann's Page

Profile Information

Where are you based? (City & Country)
Zürich, Switzerland
In which role(s) do you use SF ideas and tools? (You can pick more than one)
Consultant, Trainer, Other (please specify it in "About your connection...")
What is your website (if any)?
What is your connection to Solution Focused Work (based on Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer at BFTC Milwaukee and others)?
Education at PEF Vienna: Master of SF Coaching in Management

SF Tool Appreciative observation

Appreciative observation

Areas of application
Preparation for appraisal interview
General feedback on leadership qualities
Research questions

Setting goals Targets
Observing everyday situations with an appreciative attitude and giving corresponding feedback.
Compiling of a resource inventary

Time frame
From one hour up to one working day

What you need
Questions and empathy

Number of participants
One to two people
participation by an additional manager was valuable

Requirements (rooms, aids, media)
Observation guidelines, keywords to different aspects of observation, writing pad, possibly a clip board
Flip charts for presentations

The observation should be designed that it is manageable for all and takes time restraints into consideration. The criteria must be relevant and acceptable. Good preparation with those who observe. The observed must know what will be observed. Allow time for a short feedback.

How to do it?
In the preparation define: What is to be observed?
Concentrate on three to four criteria; note keywords that show that the criterion is fulfilled. Who participates in the observation? Observe one to two persons. Discuss extent and duration of the observation. Fix an observation date. At the place of work give information concerning the observation.
During the observation, if possible do not interact with the observed person, stay in the background. Make notes continuously.
After the observation give the observed person a short feedback. If needed, ask clarifying questions. With several observations, making the results transparent and sharing them encourages reflection about the activity. Emphasize best practice. Also in the feedback always make sure that strengths that have impressed are mentioned. Especially when a person otherwise behaves differently, the observed behaviour gives the opportunity to point out that the observed behaviour fully corresponds to expectations and demonstrates the potential of the person.

How to observe solution-focused competences

1. Talking about solutions
People acknowledge the difficulties someone may have with a specific situation and focus on the solution instead of on the problem. If it isn’t broken, they don’t try to fix it, but if something is not working, they look for another way of doing things. They talk about solutions in¬stead of problems and encourage to find own solutions.

2. Respecting autonomy
People are seen as active, constructing their own sense of living; they are endowed with adequate resources, and autonomous behaviour. Solutions and decisions are developed to¬gether and not “commanded from above” or decreed. People are treated as experts of their life-situation.

3. Working with resource-orientation
The focus is build on what works, on strengths and qualifica¬tions of the people, instead of long discussions about failures and weaknesses. In difficult situations the focus is on past successes and exceptions (times when it was less difficult).

4. Extending the range of actions
People foster and expand the range of ac¬tions by creating a setting of positive general conditions. They encourage acting largely independently. The ability of making choices and decisions is supported.

5. Giving respect and appreciation
Respect is shown to the person: In discussions by listening to and accepting the individual perception of the person. The intention of the person to carry out his or her work successfully is supported by an appreciative feedback.

6. Reflecting one’s own attitude
People act in a constant process of learning and de¬velopment. They take time to reflect and adapt their behaviour and attitude to the particular situation.

7. Giving future-orientation
Future is something that is negotiated and created. Statements develop future scenarios and actions rather than analyze past failures. People initiate “act-as-if- experiments” and encourage others to think about what they can do to create a new and different future. They find elements of what the people want happening already.

8. Developing goals
People are helped to create their own goals. These are clear, realistic and reasonable for the person. A discussion about meaning and purpose of organizational and or individual goals is initiated. The emphasis is on concrete details and tangible evidence.

9. Solution-focused communication
A solution-focused communication enhances the discovery and development of solutions. Solution fo¬cused questions and communication styles are used to make the mutual under¬standing easier. People are enabled to find new possibilities for action by providing support through orientation and compliments.

10. Reflecting the context:
There is no rash focus on a sim¬plistic solution. General conditions, (side) effects and also the organiza¬tional interconnectedness are put into account. The perso¬nality is taken into consideration, as it’s specific personal situation.

Appreciative Observations in praxis – where solution orientation showed up

The observations were taken with managers from different departments. They had planned the results of the observations within a certain range and the description and feedback could be given without having the character of an assessment. To achieve this, a guideline for appreciative observation was developed. It consisted of three observation aspects with a number of keywords giving an indication of solution-focused behaviour. The aspects are:
1. How conversations are conducted
2. The interaction with employees and clients
3. How difficult situations are handled (see appendix 1)

The observers (managers) accompanied managers (different departments) during their jobs for about three hours. After the observations, the managers received feedback and the observers’ notes were compiled in written form. Finally the results of the observations were shared among all of the managers. This exchange led to a reflection of the activities observed as well as to a discussion about the understanding of solution focused work.

Results of these observations

In all observed situations, solutions and goals were developed instead of analyzing problems or asking “why questions”. The managers supported their employees and clients in finding solutions by themselves. They also showed respect and appreciation. The achievement of goals was always seen as the responsibility of the employee/client. A solution-focused attitude was observed especially in the interaction with clients.

As an example we chose a conversation with a client: The procedure was structured by a solution-focused guideline for conversations. After a short overview of the coming half-hour conversation the division manager referred to former conversations and asked what the client could remember. To start with, a scaling question about the well being of the client was asked. Again, a reference to the last evaluation was made. The manager explicitly passed the responsibility for taking the initiative and action to the client. She let her evaluate the current situation and her past successes and gave positive feedback about the achievements. The manager made sure that the client was setting the goals by herself and asked: „What will you do in order to achieve your goal?” They built up a short-term and a long-term goal. (E)

Interactions with the employees also displayed many solution-focused behaviours. In difficult situations it became apparent that the managers took responsibility and offered structure and orientation. The following observation exemplifies leadership:

An employee talked about a client whose sexual harassment of a patient in the hospital resulted in massive complaints. The employee was uncertain about the way he should react. The department manager informed him about the legal situation and asked which possibilities he had thought about and their consequences. They developed a strategy together and the department manager made sure that the employee felt able to act on his own. Afterwards the employee was asked to present his procedure in the next team report. The department manager supported the employee in this situation without taking away his autonomy.

Keywords for this appreciative observation at work, developed with the observers

The way discussions are held
• Discuss, negotiate, search for solutions, agree with someone, help/support, inspire, talk actively, observe, appreciate, give confidence, bolster, listen actively, point to exceptions
• To challenge someone to act independently, refer to strengths/skills, ask questions, involve all in the conversation, give positive feedback
• Express praise and recognition
• Show differences, instead of insisting on „truths“.
Interaction with employees or clients
• Show interest in people, the ability to empathize, interact in partnership, show feelings instantly, give critical information in a sensitive manner, motivate
• Develop possibilities for advancement adequate to the person, consider the person’s way of living (culture, language), give the person self-confidence
• Treat employees as experts
• Involve all concerned in decision making, reflect on own behaviour and decisions, trust in the person’s ability, refer to existing strengths
• Humanistic perspective, development of skills through self activity
The way difficult situations are managed
• Focus on the essential, keep the overview, give a feeling of trust, show a calm appearance, do clear planning
• Support the development of goals or small steps, make sure that goals can be achieved, orient at possible solutions, envisage the future
• Show engagement, take responsibility, include other people’s ideas and viewpoints, show differences, admit mistakes to oneself and others
• Openly address difficult questions, trust in the ability of the recipient to deal with it
• Hand over personal responsibility, trust in the competence and ability to solve problems

What are resources?

Personal Resources

Competences (problemsolving)
Sense of coherence
Resourceful means
Cleverness in finding ways
Relevant skills
Using social support
General resistance resources (Antonowsky)

Resources of the Situation

People to help
Helpful social structure
Social resources

Organizational resources

Support by Management
Social support by colleagues
Range of action
Range for learning and development
Possibilities for communication

Dr. Carin Mussmann Wirthensohn
Master in Coaching (PEF Wien)
Sillerwies 8a
CH-8053 Zürich

I was a head of a youth center in Germany and
a scientific assistant at the ETH-Zurich,
now self employed in training and lecturing in
leadership and SF and systemic councelling,
Working as a coach, publisher of the
Book “Lösungsorientiert Führen und Beraten”

Carin Mussmann's Photos

  • Add Photos
  • View All

Carin Mussmann's Blog

Praxisorientierter Ratgeber

Herausfordernde Gespräche mit Mitarbeitenden

Publiziert am: 24. Februar

Seiten: 40

Preis: 1 CHF; 0.90 EUR

ISBN: 978-1-63173-676-6


Link zum iBook Store

Das Büchlein konzentriert sich neben einer kurzen Einführung zu Inhalten und…


Posted on March 10, 2014 at 17:24

Gruppen Coaching für Führungskräfte

In der letzten Ausgabe der Zeitschrift OrganisationsEntwicklung (3/13, S.4ff) berichtet Manfred Kets de Vries von seinen effektiven Erfahrungen mit Gruppencoachings mit Führungskräften. 

"Verglichen mit Einzelcoachings (...) erscheint uns Gruppen- oder Teamcoaching effektiver. Es produziert mehr Veränderungsmöglichkeiten und Wendepunkte (Tipping Points) - diese Momente plötzlicher Erkenntnis, die zu positiven Veränderungen führen. Wir sprechen von einem Wendepunkt, wenn sich…


Posted on July 22, 2013 at 8:26

Neues Buch: Gruppen-Lehrsupervision - Systemisch-lösungsorientiert

Ich arbeite seit einigen Jahren als Lehrsupervisorin an der Hochschule für Angewandte Psychologie, IAP, und begleite Studierende der Coaching-, Supervisions- und Organisationsentwicklung. Mir war es ein grosses Anliegen, die lösungsfokussierte Arbeit strukturiert und nachvollziehbar in meine Arbeit als Gruppen-Lehrsupervisorin zu integrieren. Meine eigenen…


Posted on July 22, 2013 at 7:45

Impressions from the workshop in Bale in december

I tried to make a summary, if anybody could add, this would be great


Posted on December 16, 2011 at 21:59 — 2 Comments

Comment Wall (11 comments)

You need to be a member of SOLWorld to add comments!

Join SOLWorld

At 15:46 on January 16, 2011, Widera Manuela said…
Liebe Carin, wie schön, dass Du auch wieder dabei bist! Ich freue mich sehr, Dich wiederzusehen und auf eine wunderschöne Zeit in Passugg. Liebe Grüsse Manuela
At 15:56 on August 22, 2010, Katalin Hankovszky said…
Dear Carin
Thanks for picture&comments on the summer retreat! yes, coming home >> packing for next piece of work WORKS and I pack lots of inspiration, capability to balance and small hints with me...
Thanks and Hugs
At 8:45 on June 30, 2008, Loraine Kennedy said…
Hi Carin
Thank you for your invite to this group. I attended an open space I recall at Bruges or maybe Vienna SOL and found your model of interviewing for appraisals or competences most insightful.
I provide training for some academic and non academic staff at a couple of Uk universities, hence my interest in this group.
At 8:28 on June 27, 2008, Carin Mussmann said…
Hi Mark, in the group is wonderfull. We are going to meet one part of the group in Switzerland the next days. Thanx for sharing your knowledge. I wish you a fantastic summer, by Carin
At 17:40 on June 23, 2008, Mark McKergow said…
Hi Carin

I would be pleased to try! Would you like me to do it in the group?
At 9:00 on May 27, 2008, Christine Salkeld said…
Hi Carin
It's fantastic to work with you and I enjoy it a lot. Nice to be your friend.
At 8:18 on May 17, 2008, Carin Mussmann said…
I'm waiting posting our protocol until the group has added their comments. I'm absent until June 12 and starting the discussion then. Thanx for having a look whats already working, By Carin
At 21:51 on May 16, 2008, Mark McKergow said…
Hi Carin

Welcome to the site! You might copy this to a posting in the group itself - it would probably be easier to find for those interested. Just a thought.

Cheers, Mark
At 17:08 on May 16, 2008, Petra Nickels-Lauterbach said…
Hallo Carin, ich freue mich jedesmal, Dich zu sehen! Grüße, Petra
At 16:43 on May 16, 2008, Carin Mussmann said…
SOL Conference May 11th 2008
Bringing SF into lecturing at University level

While even poly-technical universities are developing more and more master-studies and credit-point-systems, the students ask for more lecturing with theoretical input as part of a higher standard of education.

The question of our group is: How can we bring SF-attitudes and tools into this way of lecturing?

Our goal fort he next year is to have some examples about how we are presenting theories and models in a SF-focused way, especially in larger groups of students without possibilities of group-work in small groups.

Some inputs what is already achieved:

1. Creating a theory or model-presentation interrupted with lots of questions to transfer the theory into own practise.
2. Working with case-studies to clarify the theory.
3. Letting the students create a model of the theory.
4. Working in pairs in-between the presentation
5. Deviding the lessons into reading-time, time for questions and tutor groups for creating ideas

What we are going to do
6. Micro-tools in-between the presentation (5' discussions)
7. Giving the lesson a rhythm: 10' speech, 5' transfer, 10' question and discussion with the students
8. We are curious what will be developed

The next steps
In Switzerland an intervision-group is set up in June/July 08.
The international group with the members from Switzerland, Japan, USA, Netherland and UK is going to share how we set up our agenda for a special topic (for example change-management, leadership, organisational development). The group is connecting through internet. First step: mailings. We are going to test weather we go on with skype, google or whatever works good.

Contact persons are
Christine Salked, Basel, Switzerland,
Carin Mussmann, Zürich, Switzerland, or




Jumpstart into Solution Focus

You want to learn more about "Solution Focus"?

You prefer a "step by step" introduction instead to start with reading some
voluminous books?

You would appreciate to have a complete "helicopter view" on SF after the first step…


Created by Hans-Peter Korn Dec 25, 2009 at 10:25am. Last updated by Mark McKergow Nov 3, 2014.

Making the most of

If you’ve just arrived at (the SOLWorld ning group), you may be looking at all the features and wondering where to start.  This note might be helpful…



Created by Mark McKergow Jun 3, 2008 at 4:55pm. Last updated by Jesper H Christiansen Aug 22, 2017.

Open Space at SOLworld conferences

SOLworld Open Space instructions as it was used at the 2011 conference, by Mark McKergow


Created by Katalin Hankovszky Dec 30, 2015 at 10:18pm. Last updated by Katalin Hankovszky Dec 30, 2015.

SOLWorld Resources

Welcome to the SOLWorld Resources section.  This part of the site features information about the SOLWorld network, our past events and materials from our previous website.  It will take some time to update all the information, so thanks for your patience. 

Information in this part of the site is 'read-only'.  If you want to start discussions, please go to the Forum or Groups. …


Created by Mark McKergow May 12, 2008 at 4:08pm. Last updated by Mark McKergow Dec 2, 2022.

© 2024   Created by Mark McKergow.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service