For-profit Business (Corporate), Government, Non-profit Business
Mellish & Associates
Dissertations & Theses, Unpublished Paper
Appreciative Inquiry at Work
Is its effectiveness dependent on organisational context? What factors contribute to its effectiveness? Which organisations might benefit from using the Appreciative Inquiry approach? What might organisations expect in Appreciative Inquiry? What critical issues affect the choice of the approach and what skills and knowledge are Appreciative Inquiry at work is about applying Appreciative Inquiry in a working organisational context and about working with Appreciative Inquiry as an affirmative approach to organisational change. The purpose of this thesis is to draw together the lessons learned from six Appreciative Inquiry applications across a range of organisational change settings so as to add to process consulting knowledge and practice.
The fundamental question posed is: in what ways does the process of Appreciative Inquiry support people through organisational change and build commitment in the process?
required to implement the approach effectively?
The idea that we socially construct our worlds and our organisations underpins Appreciative Inquiry. We are all social entrepreneurs who through our ideas, beliefs, shared meanings, intentions and questions discover and create the world and organisations we inhabit. An appreciative mode of inquiry and a multiple case approach is used in this qualitative study into applied Appreciative Inquiry.
The literature which informs this study includes strategic management, organisational change, large-group interaction methods, management consultancy, process consulting, facilitation and Appreciative Inquiry. There has been a wave of recent work on the principles and practice of Appreciative Inquiry in organisational life. A review of this work suggests that there are four major silences where critical areas have not been addressed. The first silence is around the challenges of shifting between two paradigms of management, that is managing the gap or the transition from one way of viewing the world, essentially an hierarchical way, to a more participant centred way of viewing the world. The second silence is the lack of focus on the micro strategies of large-group facilitation in the context of organisational change. The third silence concerns the implications for management consulting practice in the actual implementation of Appreciative Inquiry. The fourth silence is about how little there is written on the risks and tensions of doing this sort of work.
My research findings indicate that the actual implementation of Appreciative Inquiry in the context of shifting between organisational paradigms involves four key stages. The first stage, the client engagement process covers dialogue about the context, outcomes and process of Appreciative Inquiry. The second stage involves collaborative design of the scope, topics, questions and choices about process design. The third stage involves creating the conditions for the inquiry. The two major aspects of creating the conditions for the large group inquiry are establishing a conceptual frame, the Starburst model (adapted from Limerick & Cunnington, 1993), and establishing a process frame, the 4-D model (adapted from Cooperrider & Whitney, 1996). The fourth stage involves the overall integration and extension of the process to achieve the organisation outcomes required. From the effective implementation of Appreciative Inquiry interventions, six critical issues emerged from the case data. The critical issues are trust, commitment, creating the conditions of inquiry, searching for shared meaning, building a shared vision and sustaining the process.
With respect to facilitating the micro strategies for large-group participation in organisational change efforts and the implications for management consulting practice, five key challenges dominate the attention of the consultant when using Appreciative Inquiry. These challenges are adopting an appreciative mindset, managing diversity, locating and maintaining the energy for change, integrating micro and macro issues and transferring ownership of the process to participants. Skilled facilitation competence and background organisational knowledge is necessary to implement Appreciative Inquiry. In addition, a working knowledge of Appreciative Inquiry principles, protocols and practices assists the effective implementation of the approach in the context of organisational change. The appreciative mode is more than a method or technique. It is a mindset which focuses on affirming and illuminating the factors and forces involved in organising to nourish and empower participants in organisation change.
Through the research process, process consulting practice has been extended to develop an affirmative, participatory method for organisations to address the issues of changing strategy, structure and culture simultaneously. A set of key questions has been developed which might assist organisations to determine whether Appreciative Inquiry is an appropriate option to facilitate major organisational change efforts. The challenges of applying Appreciative Inquiry relate to engaging wide spread participation in organisational change, reframing power relations and establishing connectivity between process, content and contextual issues.
This thesis provides an integrated framework of the critical issues, processual perspective and organisational considerations in applied Appreciative Inquiry which offers management consultants new possibilities for their practice and potential contribution to organisational life.