Northwest Brief Therapy Training Center
Olympia, Washington

Solution-Focused Management: Principles
Underlying Solution-Focused Management (SFM) are a set of central principles and assumptions about managing people, organizations and change. Since SFM has evolved in a heuristic, inductive way, the principles and assumptions came after the fact to explain “what works”. However, it is useful to understand the principles and assumptions of SFM to be able to put the particular skill set and kinds of questions of the approach into a broader context.

SFM originally came out of 1960’s and 1970’s questioning traditional approaches to psychotherapy and change, especially classical Western, scientific views. The work of the Palo Alto group (e.g. Fish, Weakland, & Segal, 1983) who challenged traditional view of human communication and interaction, and the work of the innovative psychiatrist, Milton Erickson (Crystal Ball Technique), set the stage for this approach.

Steve deShazer and Insoo Kim Berg originated solution-focused thinking with their colleagues at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and developed the approach within the context of psychotherapy. Early on, their co-workers realized the potential for working in organizations with a solution-focused perspective. In conjunction with Steve and Insoo, they evolved SFM (e.g. Jackson & McKergow, 2007; Berg & Szabó, 2005; Lueger & Korn 2006).

In late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, the Milwaukee team discovered that every problem contains an element of solutions (exceptions to problems) and that it was useful to pay attention to those exceptions. They showed that a solution, sometimes in surprising ways, was possible and might be independent of (unrelated to) the problem.


  1. Emphasis on strengths, resources and abilities.

  2. Utilization.

  3. Atheoretical/Nonnormative/Client-Determined view.

  4. Parsimony.

  5. Change is inevitable.

  6. Present and future orientation.

  7. Cooperation.

Central Philosophy:

If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!

Once you know what works, DO MORE OF IT!

If it doesn’t work, then don’t do it again, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!


Berg, I.K. & Szabó, P. (2005) Brief Coaching for Lasting Solutions.
     New York: W.W.Norton & Co.

Erickson, M., Rossi, E., & Rossi, S. (1976). Hypnotic Realities.
     New York: Irvington.

Fish, R., Weakland, J.H., & Segal, L. (1983). The Tactics of Change: Doing Therapy Briefly.
    San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jackson, P.Z. & McKergow, M. (2007). The Solution Focus: The SIMPLE Way to Positive Change (2nd Ed.).
    London: Nicholas Brealey International.

Lueger, G. & Korn, H-P. (Eds.) (2006). Solution-Focused Management.
    Muenchen: Rainer Hampp Verlag.

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