Unveiling appreciative inquiry

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This week I will focus on a concept that I find fascinating when it comes to organisational planning, appreciative inquiry.

You might have heard about this concept, but the following questions may arise: How effective is this concept in organisational planning? Why should organisations embrace the concept? How is it used? This article will address these areas.

Appreciative inquiry can be defined as a facilitated approach to organisational planning and change that seeks to ask questions such as: What is working well around here? How do we build on it? It is based on the assumption that in every group or organisation, something works well. This concept has been used by both the public and private sectors.

Why then is it desirable to adopt the concept? It has been noted that most organisations always focus on the negatives when a problem arises rather that the positives.

In such situations, that is where the positive, affirming nature of appreciative inquiry, where people discover and then build on the root causes of success rather than dissect problems, can be a powerful stimulus to change.

It’s non-threatening and empowering and taps into the knowledge and energy of the organisation’s internal experts.

Sue Hammond, inventor of the concept appreciative inquiry, believes that if you are going to carry forward parts of the past, they should be the best parts.

The appreciative inquiry framework can be applied to a variety of settings such as strategic planning, instructional system design, diversity, organisational redesign, and evaluations of past performance.

It is anchored on four main pillars which are discovery, dreaming, design and delivery (the four Ds). Let me outline the four pillars on which the AI is anchored
Discovery — “The best of what is”:

In the first stage, a question is set to stimulate the discovery of excellence and achievement in an organisation. For example, individuals in the group may “think back through their career in the organisation.

They locate a moment that was a high point, when they felt effective and engaged. They describe how they felt and what made the situation possible”.

It is also possible to be more focused and as you look back, ponder over a situation in the past few years in which you were part of an initiative which was a success — a life experience or moment that stands out for you as exceptional, one that left you enthused, excited, energized and empowered.

Reflect on what happened and what went on that made this such a memorable event for you. Dwelling on such success stories will motivate the desire to do much better in future.

Dreaming — “What could be”: The next stage is to develop a future vision which is developed based on the common themes that surfaced through the examination of past excellence.

The individuals or groups develop a picture of the ideal future, grounded in the organisation’s reality. There is need to ask yourselves what the organisation would look like if moments of that exceptional success were the norm? You could then consider some of the things into your future plans.

Design — “What should be”: Through consensus, short and long-term goals are then developed by the group members to achieve the dream.

For examples from the group’s dream, members could make it their resolve to achieve their annual production target no matter what it takes. This will be made possible through the group’s analysis of their past achievement and dream for future success.

Delivery — “Action plan and execute”: This is the action planning and execution stage. Strategies and plans are put in place to meet their goals and roles and responsibilities are assigned.

Although any strategic or operational planning methodology can be used, to follow appreciative inquiry principles, there is need to maintain a positive mindset and involve a broad spectrum of people throughout the organisation.

It also involves monitoring, evaluation and feedback.
lPaul Nyausaru is a training and development
practitioner.

You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk or pnyausaru@gmail.com .