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Why be scared of your employee survey?

June 20th, 2009

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organisation development process or philosophy that engages individuals within an organizational in its turnaround, renewal, change and focused performance.

It’s a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization. Put another way, it’s an approach that believes in the power of positive thinking and seeks to draw out the superhero in every employee rather than a self-fulfilling belief that all employees are scheming super villains.

Used effectively, it enhances an organisation’s capacity for collaboration and change.  It’s a fantastic way of signaling an energising alternative to the depressing and draining, downsizing mentality of a recession.

Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a cycle of 4 processes focusing on:

  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  3. DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
  4. DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

Even the headings are inspirational.

The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than just trying to fix what doesn’t. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing on gaps and inadequacies to find blame and remediate skills or practices, AI focuses on how to create more of the occasional exceptional performance that is occurring (and there will be examples), regardless of conditions, because a core of strengths is aligned.

The approach acknowledges the contribution of individuals, in order to increase trust and inspire best practice. The method aims to create meaning by drawing from stories of concrete successes with the potential of becoming best practices and lends itself to cross-functional social activities. It can be enjoyable and natural to many managers, who, let’s face it, are often sociable people when they come out from behind the badge.

There are a variety of approaches to implementing Appreciative Inquiry, including mass-mobilized interviews and a large, diverse gathering called an Appreciative Inquiry Summit Both approaches involve bringing very large, diverse groups of people together to study and build upon the best in an organization or community.

The basic philosophy of AI is also found in other positively oriented approaches to individual change as well as organizational change. AI fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, or a situation. The idea of building on strength, rather than just focusing on faults and weakness is a powerful idea in use in mentoring programs, and excellent performance evaluations – where superheroes come into their own.

If you’re wondering what to do with your employee survey and are a little nervous about how any internal benchmarking activity will be received; if you’ve had enough of the pessimism and would like to know more about the power of Appreciative Inquiry or just need a hand spotting those brand champions quietly battling the economic doom and gloom, get in touch. We’re happy to share ideas.