Monthly Archives: May 2008

Inspired action

In this final segment on Appreciative Inquiry we discuss the final phase called “destiny”.

Without action the dreams and goals of the organization will leave no lasting mark and without a mark no one will know what could have been. This last phase is the time where the positive energy is released in circles and waves of change. Celebration of success is followed with bursts of energy to reach the next quantum level of transformation.

The core of the change is accomplished by self-organized teams. This is in a sense is the essence of true leadership when people can come together and work towards a goal as a unit. Self-organization is at the essence an organic system that transfers leadership to and through the team. The team becomes a small eco-system capable of changing the micro-environment or even the macro-environment in which they are members.

The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.

If you don’t trust the people,
they will become untrustworthy.

The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When she has accomplished her task,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

Tao 17

The ability to create positive change within an organization is often the impetus to keep new teams forming to solve a new problem. AI allows the organization to continually look inward to what can be and to allow that dream to become manifest within. AI is truly a powerful technique for generating the kind of positive energy that enables, empowers and energizes the organization and its people.

Use AI in your next brainstorming, goal-seeking and substantial change project.

Why have a coach?

Why have a coach?

Have you ever considered having a coach? Why not? We live in a society that expresses uber-independence and that suppresses us from asking the question even the thought that we could magnify our abilities through coaching is never approached. We have to do it alone just as the frontiersmen conquered the vastness of the America in the early 1800’s.

Andrew DelBanco writes “We live in an age of unprecedented wealth, but in the realm of narrative and symbol, we are deprived. And so the ache for meaning goes unrelieved. “The short space of sixty years, “ as Tocqueville put it, “can never shut in the whole of man’s imagination; the incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy his heart.”” (The real American Dream).

So we reach out our hands into the world and they come back dirty, stained and worn and our hearts feel the ache of work, unsatisfied we ask “is that all there is?” When we reach out and grasp at nothing it is time to consider something else.

A coach helps to find the direction, purpose and the elements of satisfaction through questions and goal setting and finally the accountability to reach out and touch those goals. “We’re good a talking about what we think about some things, and sometimes we’re good at talking about what we believe, and we’re often good at talking about what our goals are to be.” writes leadership expert Max De Pree. We can talk a good talk and even start some effort at achieving our goals but without accountability we shrink back into the shadows. An accountability partner can help keep the goals fresh and alive. Yes, that means getting someone to help you keep your goals alive.

From courage to vision

Some words of wisdom, courage, and leadership from Nelson Mandela.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what they had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment?

Nelson Mandela

From dream to design

The pathway is littered with excitement and a powerful vision for the future. The strategic intent is defined now that the essence of the dreams has been coalesced into a single cohesive vision that defines a new future. The power of the dream stirs the soul and prepares people for delivering on that new definition for the future.

The dream results in a vision. The design phase takes the vision to be translated into an executable plan.

You might be thinking – so, what is this that is anything different than creating a compelling vision statement. Think WOW factor, the kind of vision that knocks your socks off that should be the outcome.

For an organization the social architecture will be impacted – what will the new architecture look like, feel like, taste like, and smell like. What would happen if you invented your own vocabulary to describe the changes that will take place? Business Execution Environment = BEE. Let it BEE!

Think about the leadership model that has to be in place, hopefully one of transformational change. Think about openness, transparency, genuinosity (the characteristics of being genuine) or servanthood. How do these elements fit into the culture new or current to make the organization powerfully better?

Take the dream – design the strategy to take the vision and transform what is.

Dream the possible dream

Appreciative Inquiry can be thought of as a four state process, discovery, dream, design, and destiny. Today the goal is to try to define what the goals of the dream phase are.

In the discovery phase we generated a conversation of what it was like to be at your best and the feelings that were associated with that moment in time and that is what we want to inject into the dream phase.

The dream phase brings the conversation to the entire organization. This is when everyone can participate in generating a new future. The future is created in a community dialogue that evolves from the single voice of each participant. The nutrient rich soup of conversation is then woven together into one collective story. The tapestry that is created in the dream phase should be inspirational resulting in greater employee engagement which drives a number of other positive results.

Obviously you just can’t get everyone in a room and tell them to be creative. An environment for dreaming has to be created. A dream environment might include small group activities that focus on taking the “discovered” conversation in a new direction. It might be small groups doing Imagineering or writing a play about the future any number of future focused activities that unleash the creative mind can be used. The “arts” tend to draw out of people a more satisfactory expression of the future (poetry, music, painting, acting, and dancing). Some people might call the experience “play”, however play with a purpose to create and express the future.

Once the format for Imagineering has been established pose a provocative question to the audience that expresses the ideal state in some future point in time. Use the question to establish a framework for exploration.

Amanda Trosten-Bloom & Diana Whitney define these seven steps in the dream phase:

1. Reflect on the core question

2. Engage in a dream dialogue

3. Clarify the collective dream

4. Creatively enact the dream

5. Determine common themes

6. Create an organizational dream map

7. Document the dream
(The power of appreciative inquiry: A practical guide to positive change)

The seven steps are about freely dreaming, expanding the dream, identifying the common themes in the dream, expressing what the dream will now look like, and documenting the remaining form. These are challenging steps to accomplish.

Discovery – Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is designed to bring out the best of everyone. Marshall B. Rosenberg wrote, “What I want in life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on mutual giving from the heart.” (Nonviolent Communication) Appreciative Inquiry is a tool that allows people to give from the heart the best of themselves. Imagine getting the best from yourself or the best from your team, imagine everyone believing that they can deliver far more than was ever expected. Appreciative Inquiry works because people are treated as people.

Discovery is the initial phase in the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process. However before discovery can be done we need to do some “getting started” tasks. We have to decide if AI is the right tool. We have to figure out who will be on the teams. We have to determine if there is a need for some initial training. Let’s assume that work has been done and what we really want is an overview of the process.

The starting point in the process is called “Discovery” and more than anything it is about crafting the questions that will enable the participants to create the story of the organization. Through well developed questions the interviewing team will be able to compile a story that reflects the “what is” of the organization at its very best.

The activities of Discovery are:

1. Develop Appreciative Inquiry questions

2. Develop an interview process guide

3. Create a interview plan (Who, When, Where, What, Why)

4. Enable the interviewers – give them the training and skills to ask and listen

5. Do the interviews

6. Share the stories and practices – this is the story of the organization

7. Understand the meaning of the stories

Now this information is not terribly useful by itself. Why are we doing this in the first place? Our goal is to create positive change through the full participation of the organization. The goal is to extract the stories that are expressions of the best of the best that the organization has offered. What did success look like? How did people feel? What made the organization sing such a delightful tune? Ultimately that is what we want to sense once again and recreate, but not just recreate to go beyond where it is to even a better future.

The stories will as they are being replayed stir the soul and emotion that once vibrated through the very core of the organization.

Next time Dream

Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry

appreciative – feeling or expressive of gratitude; “was appreciative of his efforts”; “an appreciative word”


1. The act of inquiring.

2. A question; a query.

3. A close examination of a matter in a search for information or truth.

One of the definitions of Appreciative Inquiry is search for the best in people. That definition is pretty powerful don’t you think. Why would we want to search for the best in people?

The AI process is designed to be one of creative expression, something that many people rarely experience. All too often people are told what to think, how to think and what to think. AI really turns the current reality upside-down and allows people to design solutions from a point of view that is not critical but rather creative.

The AI model is based on four concepts, discovery, dream, design, and destiny.

Next time we will talk about the discovery phase and how that is used.