The Solution Wheel – A simple process to get to where you want to be

Getting to where you want to be – a solution – in the shortest possible time is best achieved by turning the Solution Wheel. The Solution Wheel is a metaphor for the Solution Focused Process. You can use this process in a 1-on-1 conversation, a meeting, workshop, or even a longer project. 

How to get the wheel in motion most effectively?

By giving it a good push at any of these four points: 

  1. Contracting for outcomes
  2. Describing a preferred future
  3. Looking for what works
  4. Anticipating signs of progress or signs of the „preferred future“

The order of the steps is of course flexible and could be different in every conversation. You may also start at any point of the wheel.

But the best results are usually achieved by following the process along the spokes of the wheel: Going from contracting straight to the preferred future gets the wheel into motion really quickly. If you then move on to what works along the side of the wheel you give it another impetus. Then following the next axis we move on to signs of progress, which gives the wheel even more momentum. 

That is the basic logic of the Solution Focused Process, which is easier to explain with a demo disk or wheel in a class than on paper. 

Therefore, let us take the example of a simple 1-on-1 conversation. Imagine that my colleague Ann has an issue that she wants to solve. She asks me whether I can help her sort it out.

In Step 1: Contracting we come to an agreement on the outcome of our conversation.

I clarify what outcome Ann is really looking for so that I can make sure I support her in the right direction. 

Me: So what is your best hope from our talking together?
Ann: I will have found a way to persuading my boss of a new idea that I have. 
Me: What difference will that make to you? 
Ann: He will allow me more freedom in my work.

If she confirms that the outcome she really wants is to find ways to have more freedom in her work, I will support her in finding a solution for this, rather than for the original narrower goal of persuading her boss, which may or may not lead her having more freedom at work.

Next comes Step 2: Describing a Preferred Future.

At that stage I will ask Ann to tell me more details about what having more freedom in her work might look like and what makes this so important to her. I might also ask her to imagine a day at work in the future where she has more freedom, and to describe exactly what will be different in the way she behaves then and how the people around her will notice this difference. We will also discuss the role her boss plays on a „miracle day“ when everything is just as Ann wants it to be. 

Taking time to describe lots of details at that stage is really important: Ann needs to have a clear and concrete picture in her mind of what she wants for herself in her preferred future. This will increase her chances of actually realizing her solution enormously.

Step 3 is about What works already.

Now we will talk about what is a already happening now, in the present, that works for her – even if only a little bit – as she would like it to be in the future. 

Step 4 is about Signs of Progress.

At that stage I will ask Ann about what might be signs of progress for her in the near future regarding this situation.  She might then proceed to describe her own or someone else´s behaviour as being slightly different. She might talk about taking some small steps, or about trying out some experiments.

Hope and Resources are in the centre of the solution wheel, because they are important at all stages of the conversation. We take a hopeful, optimistic attitude and make sure we are aware of Ann´s resources at any point in time. 

Voilá! We have turned the wheel, and chances are high that Ann has gained some ideas of what she is hoping for and will proceed to put them in practice.

Now the question remains: What Solution Focused Skills are required to support the motion of the Solution Wheel? Learn more about that and about how to apply the Solution Wheel in practice in one of our upcoming workshops. The next one will in October in Berlin: https://usolvit.com/events/organisationen-agil-coachen-mit-loesungsfokus/