Appreciative Inquiry Process
Introduction: The process begins with an analysis of forces and conditions currently influencing the organization, continues with a historical review to clarify strategic context, analyzes key stakeholders, sets sights on excellence with an appreciative inquiry, and concludes with strategic actions. Instead of focusing on deficits, problems, breakdowns and malfunctions, the focus shifts to achievements, assets, successes, unexplored potentials, best practices, strengths, and opportunities. This process injects excitement and passion into strategically planning for the future. Instead of the blame, fatigue and resistance that often accompany problem-focused analysis, by uncovering successes and achievements, people are excited and mobilized to implement innovations they had never before thought possible.
Phase 1 – Scan of Trends
The group begins with a scan of current national, regional, and local issues with impacts on the organization. This stage is initiated as pre-work with a small group of staff who identify key trends having an impact on the organization. Trends are written on flip-chart paper for later interactive presentation to larger group.
Phase 2 – Historical Overview
The group creates a timeline of key events that define the organization’s history -- critical events that affected the course of the group. This phase is also done as pre-work where key events are written on flip-chart paper for later, interactive presentation to larger group.
Phase 3 -- Stakeholder Scrutiny
The group identifies key stakeholders who have a special interest in outcomes of the work done by the organization. This includes organizational decision makers, board members, implementers of decisions, employees, vendors, and other agencies. We recommend that this phase also be conducted as pre-work with interactive presentation at the session.
Phase 4 – Appreciative Inquiry
Participants share stories that epitomize the best of the organization: the factors and forces that give life when it is most effective, most alive and most successful. People share stories about when they were proud and excited to be a part of this group. These stories generate compelling descriptions of what is working well, what gives life to the organization, and what they wish for the future. By examining these stories, people discover the forces and conditions that support moments of high performance, themes and threads that were present during these optimal times.
Phase 5 – Strategic Actions
Based on the rich, contextual background provided by phases 1-4, the participants achieve agreement on how to move the organization to a state of sustained excellence. In order to bring to life on a daily basis the new images of a preferred future, what needs to be done more of? less of? What are critical conversations and actions that need to occur? At the individual level each person has the opportunity to publicly state a commitment, make an offer, or articulate a request.
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