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Incorporating Solution-Focused Techniques into the Government Strategic Planning Process

Incorporating Solution-Focused Techniques into the Government Strategic Planning Process

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Incorporating Solution-Focused Techniques into the Government Strategic Planning Process

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  1. Incorporating Solution-Focused Techniques into the Government Strategic Planning Process Presented at SOL2003 By James B. Mortensen February 14, 2003

  2. (a) FINDINGS.—The Congress finds that— (1) waste and inefficiency in Federal programs undermine the confidence of the American people in the Government… (Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, Sec. 2) Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  3. Strategic Planning Strategic planning is the process by which an organization examines its purpose and goals, visualizes its future, and outlines a course of action to reach that envisioned future. - Donald, Lyons, & Tribbey (2001), p. 179. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  4. Problem Statement • In 1993, the US Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Government Performance and Results Act (aka GPRA). • GPRA mandated that federal agencies submit five year strategic plans beginning no later than September 1997. • During the summer of 1997, a review by the General Accounting Office found deficiencies in 21 out of 27 plans. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  5. Problem Statement – cont. Two of the key findings in the GAO review were: • A lack of linkages between agency missions and goals and the action plans for implementing those goals. • The plans lacked detail regarding the linkages between strategic goals and daily activities. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  6. The SOL2003 Mission Statement (not really) Generated by Dilbert’s online Mission Statement Generator: “It is our job to quickly promote high-quality solutions and efficiently simplify emerging intellectual capital while maintaining the highest standards.” 10 Feb. 2003 http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/games/career/bin/ms.cgi Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  7. Rationale – The Parallels Researchers have noted important steps to improving the strategic planning process: • Roberts (2000) identifies the need by federal strategic planners to acquire new language tools and skills. • Mintzberg (1994) advocates for redefined approaches for planners, including: “Pos[ing] the right questions rather than …find[ing] the right answers” (p. 112) Future-oriented thinking augmented - rather than dominated - by traditional program planning Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  8. Rationale – The Parallels Solution-focused therapy meets those requirements. • Berg & Miller (1992) describe solution-focused therapy as a process that turns visions into do-able steps. • O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis (1989) portray solution-focused therapy as an approach that is both future-oriented and grounded in concrete, measurable steps. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  9. Mission Plan 1 2 3 4 5 Goal 1: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 2: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 3: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 4: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 5: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Framework - Federal Strategic Planning Model GPRA mandates the following steps in federal strategic planning: Develop Mission Plan Develop Goals & Objectives Identify Action Plans & Metrics Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  10. Developing a Cooperative Relationship with the Client Developing a Future Orientation Making the Vision a Reality Maintaining Progress Framework - Solution-Focused Therapy Model Berg & Miller (1992) take the following approach to solution-focused therapy: Developing a Future Orientation Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  11. Mission Plan 1 2 3 4 5 Goal 1: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 2: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 3: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 4: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Goal 5: Obj. 1. A; Obj. 2. B Framework - Synthesis This study suggested incorporating Berg & Miller’s four phases into strategic planning methods. Developing a Cooperative Relationship with the Client Developing a Future Orientation Making the Vision a Reality Maintaining Progress Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  12. Research Questions • Will the participants see SFBT as a useful methodology? • Does SFBT expand their range of facilitation styles? • Would the facilitators actually use SFBT in their planning sessions? Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  13. Methodology - Project Design This study was conducted as a qualitative examination of the potential use of SFBT techniques in the context of federally mandated strategic planning. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  14. Methodology - Project Design For the evaluation process, a group of federal employees with strategic planning facilitation experience: • Completed an initial facilitation questionnaire • Received a half-day’s training in solution-focused techniques • Completed a follow-up evaluation form • Participated in a small group session one week after training - (3 participants) Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  15. Methodology - Training Manual Table of Contents Introduction: The GPRA Strategic Planning Model Introduction to Solution-Oriented (SO) "Theory" Developing a Cooperative Relationship Coping Questions Developing a Future Orientation First Session Tasks Miracle Questions Making the Vision a Reality Action Descriptions Exception Finding Questions Scaling Questions Maintaining Progress Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  16. Methodology - Participants • Six participants selected from a large government agency through a non-random, snowball sampling. • Experienced in facilitating strategic planning meetings. • Average length of federal facilitation experience = 13.7 yrs • Self-assessed strength of facilitation skills: mean = 4.33 / 5* *Item stated : I have very strong facilitation skills. Select 1 to 5, with 1 = Strongly Disagree and 5 = Strongly Agree Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  17. Methodology – Instruments CLOSED ENDED Follow-up Questionnaire Facilitation Questionnaire Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  18. Methodology – Instruments OPEN ENDED Follow-up Questionnaire Small Group Session • Are there planning processes other than GPRA planning where SFBT techniques might also be useful, i.e. Balanced Scorecard, BSM? If so, please list these other planning processes. • What are the strengths and limitations of the solution-focused approach to federal planning? • In what ways could you modify the SFBT approach to be more useful in GPRA planning processes? • How comfortable would you feel using solution-focused techniques in a planning session in your agency (On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 = Very Uncomfortable)? Why or why not? • Any additional thoughts since the training about SFBT…usefulness…things you liked…things you did not like? • What is it about Solution Focused Brief Therapy techniques that help to make the linkages between mission statements and action plans? • What are the specific concerns about using SFBT within your agency, i.e. political realities, etc? How could SFBT be modified to address these concerns? • What makes SFBT useful in planning activities? • Will having new SFBT techniques in your repertoire lead to better strategic plans? Why/why not? Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  19. Results – Closed-Ended Items Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  20. Results – Closed-Ended Items Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  21. Results – Closed-Ended Items Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  22. Results – Closed-Ended Items Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  23. Results – Open-Ended Items Item 1. Are there planning processes other than GPRA planning where SFBT techniques might also be useful, i.e. Balanced Scorecard, BSM? • General consensus was that SFBT techniques could be used in any number of planning activities, including policy development, modernization of business systems, business planning and the development of survey instruments. • One respondent said that SFBT would be useful in “any endeavor that develops a process, lays out expectations and measures performance.” Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  24. Results – Open-Ended Items Item 2. What are the strengths and limitations of the solution-focused approach to federal planning? Strengths • Clear fit with GPRA • minimization of “numbers fear” • focus on “actionable behaviors” • takes emotion out of the planning process Weaknesses • therapeutic references may be a turn off • not as useful in daily planning activities • lack of a conflict-resolution model • potential difficulty in overcoming political realities within the agency • leadership of the agency might find the Miracle Question “fairy tale-ish” [sic]. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  25. Results – Open-Ended Items Item 3. In what ways could you modify the SFBT approach to be more useful in GPRA planning processes? Suggestions included a statement that linkage between GPRA and SFBT is clear and the need to change the terminology. About half the responses were “not sure” or blank. Item 4. How comfortable would you feel using solution-focused techniques in a planning session in your agency (On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 = Very Uncomfortable)? Why or why not? Mean response was 4.1 out of 5, indicating that the respondents would feel comfortable with using solution-focused techniques in a planning session in your agency. All respondents with a score of less than five (4 of 6 respondents), indicated a desire for additional practice and/or training in SFBT. Two respondents did state that they would be very comfortable. The lowest response was a three. Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  26. Results – Small Group Session Any additional thoughts since the training about SFBT…usefulness…things you liked…things you did not like. “To think of facilitation as a therapeutic intervention requires a different mindset and changes how the facilitator approaches the group session.” “The facilitator would become more invested in the process and may have a preconceived notion of what a good thing / outcome might be. Also, some of the techniques can help people get off of an established position.” Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  27. Results – Small Group Session What is it about Solution Focused Brief Therapy techniques that helps to make the linkages between mission statements and action plans? “Techniques require participants to come up with concrete examples of what they need to do tomorrow to get to the action or goal they desire. What are the specific concerns about using SFBT within [this agency], i.e. political realities, etc? How could SFBT be modified to address these concerns? “Do not use the word ‘miracle.’ This word may create a bias with senior leaders. Use instead (a) if you were Director for a day, (b) what is the end state, (c) if you were Sec. of [this Agency]. “ According to the participants, what makes SFBT useful in planning activities? “Future states of where you want to be (envisioning) and how to get there. ‘Dream your castles in the air and then build your foundation.’” Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  28. Results – Small Group Session Will having new SFBT techniques in their repertoire lead to better strategic plans? Why/why not? One person said that they did not know for sure if SFBT would make for better strategic planning, but SFBT does get people involved in the process. “Allow[s] you to think about where you are in the strategic planning process and what you have to do to get to your end state while involving people in the process. “SFBT does not help you resolve conflict about the strategic directions. Need to delineate the differences when it comes to conflict in the strategic direction. SFBT intended for an individual, but when dealing with an organization there are unique issues and conflict…why not explore which SFBT techniques would help you deal with these conflict situations.” Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen

  29. Conclusion Facilitators believed that: SFBT would be useful in a strategic planning context because it – • Created clear linkages between actions and the desired end-state • Created a positive approach • Involved people in the process Facilitators were also likely to use SFBT techniques themselves: • Especially the Miracle Questions (though they would modify its phrasing) • They would like more training. Additional studies are needed to: • Create a more formal model of SFBT as a strategic planning facilitation methodology • Test the efficacy of the formalized methodology in an actual setting Solution Focused Strategic Planning – Jim Mortensen