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Gene Spencer – Bucknell University

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1 Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Means to Transform an Organizational Culture
Gene Spencer – Bucknell University Maureen Sullivan – Maureen Sullivan Associates Living The Future 5 April 16, 2004

2 How often do we think about how well our organizations are working?
How often is the organizational culture an obstacle to change?

3 A Tale of Three Reorganization Efforts @Bucknell
1993 – “Refocusing” Computer Services 1997 – Merging IT and Library functions into Information Services & Resources 2002 – Reorganizing the front-line Technology Support Group

4 http://www. isr. bucknell

5 A very “top-down” reorganization process…
1993 A very “top-down” reorganization process… The old culture was in the way and change was imposed.

6 A “grass-roots” process… called “Opportunistic Evolution”
1997 A “grass-roots” process… called “Opportunistic Evolution” When the staff realized that change was necessary and became motivated to act, things happened.

7 Top Down – hard to get commitment
Grass-Roots – slow to get action There has to be a better way! Stuck between forcing change and coaxing change Something between impatience and too much patience hitting a balance somehow

8 A New Way… Appreciative Inquiry

9 AI - A Positive Description of an “Organizational Culture”
“Organizations are, first and foremost, centers of human relatedness and relationships come alive where there is an appreciative eye, when people see the best in one another and the whole, when they share their dreams and ultimate concerns in affirming ways, and when they are connected in full voice to create not just new worlds, but better worlds. By making it possible for every voice to be heard, a life giving process is enacted.” (from The Appreciative Organization by Harlene Anderson, David Cooperrider, et. al.)

10 What is Appreciative Inquiry (AI)?
Appreciative Inquiry is the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best. This approach to personal change and organization change is based on the assumption that questions and dialogue about strengths, successes, values, hopes, and dreams are themselves transformational. (from The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom) Those of you who have kids… have you ever heard the notion of “catch them doing something right?

11 Appreciate and Inquire
Ap-pre’ci-ate, v., 1. valuing; the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us; affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials; to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g. the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, and HONORING. In-quire’ (kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing new potentials and possibilities. Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH, and SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY. (from A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney) Those of you who have kids… have you ever heard the notion of “catch them doing something right?

12 Do you recognize any of these people in your organization?
Which is an appreciative view?

13 Appreciative Inquiry - Simply put…
If we continue to search for problems, we will continue to find problems If we look for what is best and learn from it, we can magnify and multiply our successes Simple Example of start a meeting with 3 success stories… or 3 problems to solve. Which gives life to the organization? Also… does not mean ignoring problems… it does not mean simply being positive…

14 The 8 Assumptions of AI 1. In every society, organization, or group, something works. 2. What we focus on becomes our reality. 3. Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities. 2.. Focus on our unhappiness… we will be more unhappy

15 The 8 Assumptions of AI 4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way. 5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).

16 The 8 Assumptions of AI 6. If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past. 7. It is important to value differences. 8. The language we use creates our reality. (from The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry By Sue Annis Hammond) 8. Frank Outlaw quote from Communication Skills (Watch your thoughts, because they become your words… actions… habits… character

17 A Cultural Shift The work of leaders changes…
Old work: leaders are responsible for finding and solving problems New work: leaders enable others to find the possibilities, energize the vision and create a new future Stop here for brief example… start of a meeting… what went wrong? What went right?

18 Facilitating an Appreciative View!
Ask the right question… “What do you see here that would be useful to you?” What do you see in this setting that will be very useful to you?

19 4-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry
Discovery “Appreciate what is” Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core Destiny “Create what will be” Dream “Imagine what might be” Discovery and Dream  Rapport and Empathy… Design  Trust… Destiny  Mutual Understanding Design “Determine what should be” From The Power of Appreciative Inquiry

20 Applying Appreciative Inquiry to Improving Organizations?
The choice of what we study is critical. The questions we ask will define what we will learn. The words we use create our reality. We can appreciate the best of what is already happening and multiply it. Imagine focusing this kind of attention on your organization.

21 2002 – The Situation @Bucknell
Front-line Technology Support in crisis mode 1993 design no longer worked well Technology had become “mission critical” Student employees – first line of defense 10% of problems resolved at “first point of contact” $30,000+ for contractors for summer installs Major backlog of problems Unhappy (but supportive) customers Completely reactive mode “We need more staff!” – 5? 7? 9? Low staff morale

22 2002 – The Approach Staff wanted change and our leadership supported it using the techniques of AI Energy for change came from the bottom up Guidance came from the top down The staff asked me “what’s important to you?” I outlined my 4 key requirements (and got out of the way) What happened in the middle was powerful The staff developed their dream within the parameters AND, the results far exceed my dreams!

23 4 “Simple” Requirements from the Associate VP of ISR
Better service for the campus community Happier staff with more rewarding jobs Stop using the term “User Self-Sufficiency” Say “NO” much less frequently and then only “thoughtfully so” And we recognize the campus freeze on new positions!

24 The 4-D Cycle of AI Discovery Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core
“Appreciate what is” Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core Destiny “Create what will be” Dream “Imagine what might be” Discovery and Dream  Rapport and Empathy… Design  Trust… Destiny  Mutual Understanding Design “Determine what should be” From The Power of Appreciative Inquiry

25 Display 4-D cycle right again after this!

26 The 4-D Cycle of AI Discovery Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core
“Appreciate what is” Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core Destiny “Create what will be” Dream “Imagine what might be” DELETE SLIDE FROM HANDOUT Design “Determine what should be” From The Power of Appreciative Inquiry

27 2002 Outcomes A new model developed by the staff
Calls to the Tech Desk are differentiated (students vs. faculty/staff) Student employees (and a small staff) at the Tech Desk focused on supporting students A new Call Center – takes all calls from faculty/staff 80% of problems resolved at “first point of contact” Procedures/hand-offs simplified in many cases $30,000+ for contractors no longer needed Minimal backlog of cases – delays measured in hours Proactive mode – fix problems before they are noticed

28 2002 Outcomes (continued) Delighted customers
The campus now believes that we are much more “Customer-Focused” High staff morale People are matched to their strengths and interests We eliminated one staff position Several other people were redeployed to the “right work” We rarely need to say “no” This effort received a Bucknell “Maxwell Award” for Customer Service, Extraordinary Effort and Embracing New Directions!

29 Appreciative Inquiry Cycle…
An Example AI Process: This illustrates the “Discovery” stage of a Formal Appreciative Inquiry Cycle… Appreciate What Is!

30 Provocative Proposition
Imagine that you return to work and find a transformed organization. Everything works well. It is a high-performing, customer-focused library. It blends its service mission and its leadership role in perfect resonance with the needs and aspirations of the community. Its value and contribution are well known, openly appreciated and frequently celebrated.

31 Questions to Consider What do you see in this picture?
What are the key elements of your vision? How does this feel to you? What will help you achieve your vision?

32 The 4-D Cycle of AI Discovery Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core
“Appreciate what is” Affirmative Topic Choice Positive Core Destiny “Create what will be” Dream “Imagine what might be” DELETE FROM HANDOUT Design “Determine what should be” From The Power of Appreciative Inquiry

33 A Positive Description of an “Organizational Culture”
“Organizations are, first and foremost, centers of human relatedness and relationships come alive where there is an appreciative eye, when people see the best in one another and the whole, when they share their dreams and ultimate concerns in affirming ways, and when they are connected in full voice to create not just new worlds, but better worlds. By making it possible for every voice to be heard, a life giving process is enacted.” This passage is so profound, that it needed to be repeated. (from The Appreciative Organization by Harlene Anderson, David Cooperrider, et. al.)

34 Some Closing Thoughts The questions you ask help to create the reality of your organization. Trying to “magnify the positive” builds energy and enthusiasm into organizations. Appreciative Inquiry can be applied to virtually any aspect of an organization. Organizations need to regularly ask questions about the structure and quality of their work, and search to find the best ideas among them and their customers. The most important thing a leader can do is to create meaning for the organization. Meaning is created through appreciation.

35 Bibliography – Appreciative Inquiry
The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, Sue Annis Hammond (Thin Book Publishing Co.) The Power of Appreciative Inquiry, Diana Whitney & Amanda Trosten-Bloom (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) Encyclopedia of Positive Questions, Vol. 1, Diana Whitney, David Cooperrider, et. al. (Lakeshore Communications) The Appreciative Organization, Harlene Anderson, David Cooperrider, et. Al. (Taos Institute Publications) Appreciative Leaders, edited by Marjorie Schiller, et. Al. (Taos Institute Publications) “The Far Side” (various publications), Gary Larson

36 DELETE FROM HANDOUTS

37 Other AI Resources The Appreciative Inquiry Commons (www.appreciativeinquiry.org/ ) The Taos Institute (www.taosinstitute.net/ ) A Guide to Appreciative Inquiry, Bernard J. Mohr (Pegasus Communications) Second International Appreciative Inquiry Conference (http://www.aiconsulting.org/conference2004/ Miami, Florida September 19-22, 2004) Can also mention the Corp for Positive Change:

38 The End! Gene Spencer – gspencer@bucknell.edu
Maureen Sullivan -


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