In any organization, organizational leaders continuously tackle a myriad of questions and several analyses as they make efforts towards improving their operational methods. Questions that seek reasons for a down ward turn in productivity, how reduction of wastage at the workplace could be implemented, who needs to be involved in decision making and how to increase revenues, to mention but a few, are a few of the questions that often arise in many organizations.
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An efficient way of dealing with such questions is to utilize Appreciative inquiry when tackling these questions because it posits that organizations move in the direction of what they consistently as questions about, and that the more affirmative the questions are, the more hopeful and positive the organizational responses will be. It is with this in mind that this paper will tackle the issue of Appreciative Inquiry as explored by Cooperrider and Whitney.
Why the article is engaging from a change perspective
After reading the three articles, the article that I find most engaging is the one titled “Appreciative inquiry” which is an article published in Holman, Devane and Cady’s book titled “the change handbook.” Given the details contained in this article, it can be said that every executive who is interested in implementing change within his or her organization needs to read this article. The article covers the topic of Appreciative inquiry from different angles starting with its definition and moving on to illustrate how it can be applied to an organization undergoing the process of change. The article is striking because it approaches the process of problem solving by organizations from a different angle.
When it comes to tackling problems within organizations, most organizations usually focus much of their attention on the problem or on the things that are not running as they are supposed to and in doing so, they tend to ignore the things that are working well and are not in need of a fix. It is with this in mind that the authors of this article developed the Appreciative Inquiry theory as a way of helping organizational leaders refocus their attention to more optimistic habits and hence become less pessimistic of the processes within their organizations.
As noted in the article, the advantages of the Appreciative inquiry theory are numerous the most notable being that it helps in harnessing previously ignored creative energies which are likely to be unleashed once the organizational leaders focus on Appreciative Inquiry particularly, on the success stories of the organization’s workforce. By refocusing on the positive elements within the organization through the process of Appreciative Inquiry, the organization would be path of creating positive changes and setting the best environment for positive forces such as creativity, commonality and pride to flourish.
The Appreciative inquiry theory critically argues that individuals are always creating their perceived reality in a process that is heavily influenced by what these individuals believe (Whitney, Bloom & Cooperrider, 2010). While this has its advantages, it holds the major disadvantage of limiting the way of thinking. An example of such a situation is one involving an organization whose core beliefs are centred upon the organization always being the best in its line of business and to do so, the organization would have to always have to seek ways of improving its ways of operation.
While the management of such a firm may view this goal as one worthy of pursuit, from the perspective of the employees this process of satisfying this goal can be de-motivating because everything they do would never be considered as good enough and would always be considered by the management as being in need of room for improvement. This article paints this line of thinking that has very little appreciation as defective because an organization that always focuses on inadequacies will make its workforce develop the feeling of inadequacy with regards to performing any role within the organization.
Issues raised in this article that are significant for working for change
There are several issues that have been raised in this article that are significant to an organization working for change one of them being that the liberation of power is important in the successful implementation of Appreciative Inquiry. This is done through the generation of six crucial conditions which work together in liberating both personal and organizational powers. These six forms of freedom explained in the article are the freedoms to be known in relationship, to be heard, to dream in community, to chose and contribute, to act with support, and to be positive.
The freedom to be known in relationship is important due to the fact that human identity grows in relationships. The article explains that sometimes at workplaces, people do not relate with one another as humans but instead, do so with one another according to the roles they play in their organization. Appreciative Inquiry corrects this issue by offering all the individuals within an organization with the opportunities to develop a sense of belonging and to know and relate with one another at a more personalized level.
The freedom to be heard encourages individuals within an organization to not only appreciate the views of other people but to also come forwards with any ideas, information or innovations that could be applied to push the organization into the next level. The provision of the freedom to dream in the community entails the creation of an ample environment within communities and organizations which in turn encourages individuals to share their dreams through the process of holding dialogues with one another.
The freedom to choose to contribute is important in encouraging commitment and the hunger for knowledge among organizational members because it liberates power. This is because an individual who personally chooses or commits to a project or task within an organization is most likely to get creative and to do all he or she can to ensure the success of the project.
The “freedom to act with support” promotes positive interdependence and, by enabling individuals to know that others care about what they do, it pushes them towards being anxious to cooperate and work harder at the workplace. The freedom to act with support also provides individuals with the feeling that they are free to experiment with tasks, to learn and be innovative at the workplace.
The effect of this freedom is that it inspires individuals towards taking on challenges and cooperating with others to work towards achieving the best possible results. Lastly, the freedom to be positive helps individuals to remain proud and positive at the workplace even during times of tough challenges at the workplace. The article explains that the Appreciative Inquiry is successful because it allows all the aforementioned freedoms to operate in a 4-D cycle which then creates an energy surge that is difficult to contain once it is liberated. Simply put, Appreciative Inquiry creates a continuous cycle that is directed towards making positive changes or revolutions whenever it is applied.
The other issue raised in this article that is important when working for change is the importance of understanding human systems and change based on certain principles that are embodied in Appreciative Inquiry. The principles upon which the process of understanding human systems and change is based are the constructionist principle, the principle of simultaneity, the poetic principle, the anticipatory principle, and the positive principle, all of which are explained in detail in the article.
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How these issues have been discussed elsewhere in change management literature
According to Deutsch, Coleman and Marcus (2006) Appreciative Inquiry has four concepts namely positive change, freedoms, power and meaning making. Positive change concentrates in bringing out the positive potential in individuals and organization by emphasizing on the positive potential of individuals in the past, present and future. The phrase “meaning making” implies the sharing of information, data, inspiriting highlights, and stories that encourage deeper interaction between individuals.
As for the freedoms, these authors share the views of Cooperrider and Whitney (2007) by stating that these entail the six liberations of power and proceed to mention all the six freedoms. These authors note that the power aspect of Appreciative Inquiry stands for the process of offering individuals the opportunity to innovate, create and influence the future in a positive way.
Marshall and Coughlin (2010) also note that Appreciative inquiry is made up of fur cycles which it names as the “4Ds” that stand for design, dream, discovery and delivery. Marshall and Coughlin (2010) then explain that discovery entails making enquiries into the positive core based on the assumption that something within the organization is working well as it is supposed to. The dream task plays the role of encouraging individuals to imagine and envision strategic views while the design task is to articulate the organization’s roles and to come up with prepositions that are good for the organization’s future.
The delivery task is to act on what is included in the dream and to live according to the organization’s vision. Singh (2009) also notes that Appreciative Inquiry comprised of four steps the first of which is that of discovering or appreciating the best of what is currently taking place in an organization. The second step is to build on the knowledge garnered from the discovery towards the development of a vision of what is expected of the future. The third and fourth steps are the designing of the expected future and the sustenance of the designed future of the organization, respectively.
Thatchenkery and Chowdry (2007) give a few examples that illustrate the advantages of empowering employees through freedom. In one of their examples, employees were given the freedom to get into work groups without seeking permission from their supervisors. This freedom was accorded to them as a way of showing them (employees) that their supervisors and the management trusted them to not only properly complete their roles but to also perform them to the best of their ability.
Through a review process, one of the female employees was encouraged to write a handbook that explained the knowledge she garnered through the process and share it with her colleagues. Her work was so impressive that the company management started using the handbook in the various departments and branches of the company. Her work was even put into use by the training and recruiting staff to carry out their duties. It was after this process that the management of the organization acknowledged that freedom enhanced decision making capabilities by not only encouraging creativity, knowledge sharing among employees but also improved employee relations. This explanation is similar to those contained in the six freedoms of Appreciative Inquiry explained earlier in this essay.
Paddock (2003) explores the numerous first hand benefits enjoyed by the Episcopal Church after applying Appreciative Inquiry. Paddock gives the example of an incidence in which a reverend wanted the operations of his church restructured in such a way to encourage the church’s staff members to support the work of the people in the diocese. In a conversation between the reverend and the person charged with restructuring the church (Spector), Spector mentions a number of advantages that come with Appreciative Inquiry.
Spector begins by telling the reverend that in order to find the core values of the church they would have to shift the boundary of how they view things from focusing too much on things that do not work to focusing on things previously neglected as emphasized in Appreciative Inquiry. This expansion of ideas and boundaries about who is involved in a system, as stated by Spector, increases the possibility of the church experiencing positive change. Spector further adds that by giving the staff members the freedom to ask questions concerning the running of the church, the church management would be on the path towards positive change.
Relation of these issues to my situation
The insights I have gained from this article has taught me not to be pessimistic about any challenging situation but to view every situation from a positive perspective. I have also learnt that by being pessimistic about situations my organization, which is a restaurant, I would be developing a negatively oriented behaviour towards problem solving. Conversely, by viewing the situation from an optimistic viewpoint, my organization would be positively oriented towards the positive things that work and by doing so, my organization would be enjoying the daily little successes which would have otherwise been overlooked had the organization concentrated on the negative aspects of the organization.
I will apply the insights I have gained from this article in future as a change agent to search for what works in my restaurant by examining the success stories of the workforce especially at the elements of pride, excitement and creativity within these stories. Once I encourage individuals at my restaurant to share their success stories, I shall ensure that the stories are shared among everyone within the restaurant. I will also ensure that mechanisms are put in place to recognize the individuals who have positively contributed to the success of the restaurant.
Challenges while applying Appreciative Inquiry
There are numerous challenges that I am likely to encounter while implementing Appreciative Inquiry some of which include controlling power within my restaurant, dealing with resistance to change, the necessity to learn both the negative and the positive aspects of my restaurant, the evaluation of hard data and results and the general process of training others to implement the Appreciative Inquiry approach. The control of power and the process of dealing with resistance within organizations can be a big challenge.
Whenever change is being implemented in any organization, it is always expected that there are those who may not be comfortable with the new changes and may show their lack of appreciation for change by offering some resistance (Benjamin, 2007).Given my limitations in relation to knowing how to deal with resistant forces, this is likely to pose a big challenge to me as a change agent. The process of finding out the negative and positive aspects in my restaurant may also pose a challenge to my duty as a change agent.
I may have to come up with a plan that would enable me find out the negative and the positive aspects in my restaurant and this may not be easy especially if the workforce do not feel free enough to share what they consider negative or positive things within the restaurant. Should the workforce not share the negative and positive things taking place within the restaurant, it would be very difficult to learn from their experiences and therefore be very difficult to implement Appreciative Inquiry.
Given that there are no two applications of the Appreciative Inquiry approach that are the same (Whitney and Bloom, 2003), I am likely to encounter challenges in evaluating and gathering hard data about the organization. It will also be challenging to come up with a procedure that will reshape a negative based question into an affirmative choice or to find a qualified facilitator who will do so. The other challenge that I am likely to encounter in the future is be due to the system of hierarchies. Every organization has hierarchies and within these hierarchies are a set of established regulations and rules.
Unfortunately, hierarchies have the tendency to pay very little attention to those most significantly affected by most decisions made within an organization (Towney, 2008). Shukla (2009) also notes that it is a common occurrence for the junior management or the general workforce to feel rather powerless due to the power held by the senior management. The feeling of powerlessness can pose big challenges in the willingness of the juniors to implement change. The process of shaking off the feeling of powerlessness among those holding junior positions in an organization can be very challenging and with them feeling powerless, it can be very difficult to convince them to contribute towards processes that can bring change in an organization.
What I have learnt from doing this assignment
I have learnt a lot from this assignment the most important of which is that implementing change in an organization is not an easy task. Even with the numerous lessons about the importance of Appreciative Inquiry included in this assignment, I have also learnt that it requires a lot of commitment if one is to successfully implement Appreciative Inquiry. I have also learnt the importance of freedom when implementing the Appreciative Inquiry element of change within an organization.
This article has explored the issue of Appreciative Inquiry from not only the perspective of the article by Cooperrider and Whitney, but also from the views of other authors who have covered the subject matter. The article has also illustrated how the findings noted in Cooperrider and Whitney’s article relate to my situation. Given the many advantages that come with Appreciative Inquiry, it is important that all organizational leaders make an effort to know more and adopt this concept as it could improve their way of tackling the numerous challenges faced while running their firms.
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