“The task of organizational leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that makes a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.” ~ Peter Drucker
Appreciative Inquiry is a model used in organizational development to bring about strategic change. Instead of approaching challenges by focusing on weaknesses and fixing problems, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on aligning strengths and resources to bring about innovative change.
Standard Approach to Problem Solving vs. Appreciative Inquiry
- Identification of Problems
- Analysis of Causes
- Analysis of Possible Solutions
- Action Planning
- Valuing the Best of What Is
- Envisioning What Might Be
- Engaging in Dialogue about What Should Be
- Innovating What Will Be
Excerpt from Wikipedia
Appreciative Inquiry is a way of asking questions and envisioning the future to foster positive relationships so you can achieve the highest potential for any given individual, team, organization or situation.
Appreciative focuses on:
- what’s working
- your values and aspirations to create new realities
- building on success of past and present work
- co-creating a shared vision and key themes for moving into the future
Appreciative Inquiry assumes every team, organization and community has many untapped resources. When explored and linked to a common agenda, this process mobilizes them to affect change in positive ways.
The model includes four processes:
- Discover: appreciate the best of what is
- Dream: imagine what could be
- Design: determine what should be
- Destiny: create what will be
The goal is to frame solutions around what works, rather than try to fix what doesn’t.
Here’s the process step by step in greater detail:
1. Discovery Phase: Identify assets, strengths, resources, opportunities, aspirations, hope, desired results
- Explore what is working?
- What has lead to success in the past?
- Who are we at our best?
- To develop human connections so we can create the innovation and changes we want
- To generate energy and confidence in our ability to create the future
- Expanded List:
- achievements, strategic opportunities, core competencies, leadership capabilities
- product/service strengths, technical assets, financial assets, pipeline
- social capital, breakthrough innovations, embedded knowledge, best practices,
- core values, collective spirit, elevated thoughts, positive emotions
- visions of possibilities/positive future, organizational wisdom
- alliances and partnerships, relational resources, loyalty
2. Dream Phase: Envision
- What are you being called to do as a team or organization?
- How would it look to be at your best?
- Look to the horizon, what’s your vision, where do you want to go?
- What is your team’s highest potential and greatest opportunity to influence and have impact?
- Imagine what that looks and feels like.
- To challenge the status quo
- To present new assumptions
- To think and create new possibilities
- To stretch individual and group thinking into the future and envision a bold, compelling and mutually desired future
3. Design Phase: Explore strategies, processes, systems, decisions
- What do you need to realize your dream?
- What would the team look like if it were designed to maximize the qualities you discovered and achieve your vision?
- What do the team values and guiding principles need to be?
- To develop ideas about the structures, relationships and practices to sustain exceptional work and capabilities
- To define a clear purpose, craft a charter of relationships, roles and responsibilities and develop a plan.
- To align all the elements of the organization behind the strategy: organizational structure, people, competencies, measurement, reward systems and motivation to drive it all forward, structures and processes with the ideal
4. Destiny Phase: Implement Proposed Design
- Set the process and systems established in the design phase into motion; stepping back to allow the changes to unfold and tweaking/retweaking until your plan becomes sustainable.
- Innovate and experiment with an aligned framework in which people cooperate and the organization functions
- Empowering one another to connect, collaborate and innovate.
- Build learning competencies into the system
To learn more, here are a few resources:
- Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution for Change by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney
- Appreciative Team Building by Diana Whitney
- Appreciative Leadership by Diana Whitney