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Change as stated is the only permanent thing on earth. People, business environment and almost everything around must undergo a process of change at one time or another. I intend to go through the Appreciative Inquiry method of introducing change in organizations and in a person’s lifestyle, as a change agent. This method of introducing change differs from the traditional methods in the way it approaches the question of change.
The main advantage of this method is that it acknowledges that every stakeholder in the organization has something positive to offer to the organization. Therefore, it lays its emphasis on the positives present in the disposal of the organization rather than its defects.
The Assumption of the method
In trying to come up with appreciative inquiry, Cooperrider formulated a number of theories to explain the method. Other scholarly writers have also come up with theories which they used as a base in justification of this method of introducing lasting change. One of those theories includes the social construction of reality theory.
This theory assumes that a human has the unlimited ability to recreate our world through exchange of ideas and imaginations about the desired future. It is through this exchange of ideas through words that we create new images of the world. Organizations can tap into these images to acquire a positive lasting change in the dynamic environments.
Cooperrider also theorized that social systems will tend to develop towards the most positive images they hold about themselves. The images may be held unconsciously in the mind and therefore not discussable among members of a given organization. Such images and knowledge that is hard to deduce is known as tacit knowledge. This assumption is made and used in the appreciative inquiry which proposes the creation of the images of the organization desired in the minds of all stakeholders in the organization.
This, he called Heliotropic Hypothesis ***. Other writers in this area such as Bush, (2006), introduced other theories such as organization’s inner dialogue in which he assumes that just like in human beings, organizations have layers in which they use to understand all conversations within themselves. Therefore, if you change the story, according to him, you change the inner dialogue and therefore likely to meet resistance.
Why the article by Cooperrider is engaging
This article clearly explains what appreciative inquiry is and what it involves. The writers have tried to bring out vividly why the process of appreciative inquiry is the way to go for all organizations that seek positive lasting change in a dynamic organization. The article also gives cases of organizations that made use of this method to come up with the change that they desired.
Noted in this article are philosophies that are made use of in the appreciative inquiry process to shift the understanding of human system. It also gives the application areas of this method. Through the article, one can clearly explain the benefits of the appreciative inquiry method in change process. Appreciative inquiry is advantageous in the way it approaches the organization.
It takes a positive perspective of the organization and the human systems that make up the organization. True to Appreciative Inquiry (AI), everyone has something positive to offer to the organization. It is upon the organization to create a positive environment that will enable it to tap into this reservoir that can help it adapt to the ever-changing environment.
Appreciative Inquiry enables an organization to focus on what an organization desires to be rather than what it is not, what it can do to get to the desired level rather than what is ailing the organization. While all these are important, dwelling so much on the deficiencies may obstruct the big picture about the future of the company which can prove to be disastrous in business environments that are so unpredictable in their direction.
On the other hand, by focusing on what best the organization can achieve with what it has in terms of human resource and their view about what they desire to see in the organization, the organization is able to see the potential the environment offers to the business in future regardless of the direction of change. A number of issues have to be taken into consideration in the process of change management.
First, the change agent should seek to understand the present views of the human system within the organization. This is done through appreciative interview in which answers are sought to questions on what all the stakeholders and the community on what they think about the organization, its value and what gives life to the organization in general. It is from this interactive dialogue that the images of how people desire to see the organization in future are constructed.
This is very significant since the stories created through dialogue are shared within the organization and help create a common desire and goal towards a better organization. It also helps predict almost with certainty the direction the organization is likely to take in the future. To change people or organizations, first you need to understand them in their current form.
Then you need to know their aspirations before you can strategize on the best way to reshape them. Appreciative interview therefore provide this crucial information that the change agent must have in order to introduce change that can be owned by everyone in the organization. Another issue in the process of change management is to understand the positive core of the organization.
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Actually as noted by Cooperrider and Whitney, (1999), the human systems develop in the direction of what they persistently ask. This propensity is said to be strong in cases where the desired end results is correlated to the means of achieving it. An organization can build on the collective wisdom of its employees, build enough energy and resilience to change and can enable the organization to achieve extra ordinary results.
This factor in most cases is not taken with the seriousness it requires. As a result, most organization fails to tap into the resource that they possess in terms of human faculty. Positive core helps shift the focus of the organization from analysis of problems facing the organizations to positive analysis of what the organization has in its possession.
All this gives the positive change which accordingly can be defined as the change that is as the result of comprehensive analysis, inquiry and dialogue leading into the organizations’ positive core. Another issue to consider should be the appreciative inquiry life-cycle. This according to Peggy Holman, Tom Devane, Steven Cady, and Associates (2007) should be tailor made to meet the specific needs of the organization, individual, community and the industry in which the organization is operating.
This cycle generally involve four stages; discovery, dream, design and destiny. When followed properly, they should lead to a lasting solution to the organization in terms of what it desires to achieve in the foreseeable future. Discovery involves the identification of the methods and processes that the company employs to get better performance. This is attained through appreciative interview and inquiry into positive core of the organization.
The main aim is to discover what works well in the organization and how it can be enhanced. Dream involves creating a desired vision of the company or an individual. This is mainly based on the discoveries made in the process of inquiry into the positive core of the company.
Once the vision is created, the next challenge is to design the activities of the organization in a manner that magnifies the positive core of the organization and the dreams of the organization as a whole. Therefore, the change agent should know what to prioritize and what should wait. Destiny is the process in which the whole process is implemented.
It involves putting the design into action to enable the organization to accelerate towards the lasting positive change it desires. According to Srithica, T.M. and Bhattacharyya, S. (2009) the process of appreciative inquiry works because it recognizes the social aspects of people. The process according to him gives employees an opportunity to exercise their curiosity to share with others on what they think is important and should be done.
He notes that 4-D cycle is the main process that generates the drive into appreciative inquiry. It helps the organization to unleash the positive potential it possesses. As noted by Billings, Diane M. and Kowalski, Karren (2008) the process begins with the identification of the subject matter of the study. According to him, this may be the desired leadership, margins or a culture that can create competition to give the company an edge.
He agrees on the process of discovery as the one which should lead to the identification of what the company seeks to achieve. According to him, this process should lead to the establishment that bridges the traditional barriers and helps the organization to tap into the positive core it possesses.
As noted by him, the dream phase should generate creative affirmative images about the organization which can elevate a sense of purpose in all stakeholders. He sees the design phase as the one which answers the question of what should be done and when it should be done to realize the dreams. He sees destiny as an array of changes within the organization which touches on all aspects of the organization such as human resource, customer services and work processes.
Van, V. J. and Crous, F. sees appreciative inquiry as more than just recognition and appreciation of value within an organization. To him it is also a process of inquiry with sincere curiosity and ready to open to new possibilities. It is the systematic discovery of what gives life in the organization. According to him, the most vital element of the appreciative inquiry is the affirmative topic choice.
This can lead into better ideas that can lead to the positive core of the organization. On the principles of appreciative inquiry, Bushe states that five key principles should be considered. The principle of principle of social construction according to him leads people to construct meaning of the world around them instead of extracting it. According to him, the choice of language is important because it has influence on the future that is created.
The principle of simultaneous on the other hand states that change begins immediately an inquiry is made. Accordingly, he states that we have a choice which has an influence on the outcome of things. The poetic principle on the other hand helps in the interpretation of people and situation. As it states, people and events have varieties and different meanings just like poets do.
Basing his argument on the principle of anticipation, Maier, (2009), states that our present actions are deeply influenced by our anticipation about the future. Therefore, the organization should engage the system to check for the aspiration that may lead to the organizational or group anticipation. On the principle of positivity, it is argued that affirmative questions can lead to positive images about the organization’s future and therefore should be encouraged.
Other principles emerging from various scholars include the wholeness principle by Whitney, and Trosten-Bloom, (2003). According to this principle, looking into a situation as a whole provides more expansive thinking than looking at it in a segmented manner. Therefore, the organization should learn to be present to the emerging whole.
Stavros, and Torres (2005), came up with the awareness principle in which they state that awareness is all about understanding and integrating the principles of the appreciative inquiry. According to them, bringing out assumptions is important where there is a good relationship.
Barret, Frank and Fry (2005), came up with the narrative principles in which they argue that people construct stories about their lives. To them, these stories can lead to transformation. Therefore the role of an organization in the transformation process should be to encourage people to share stories especially about the future they desire to see in the organization
The insight gained from appreciative inquiry process will help in introducing change in every aspect of my life in a way that is acceptable to all those who might be affected by the change. This is achievable by acknowledging the role of other in all those entities that require change and the potential that all the stakeholders have in bringing the desired change.
The main challenge that I may meet in application of this method is to create an enabling environment in which people can share the constructive stories needed to transform the organization. However, this can be overcome by creating a forum in which people can share their views on all aspects of their life. What I have learned is that, people and organizations change. However, the outcome of change depends on the approach of all involved, to the change.
In general, the appreciative inquiry is about finding out what is important in the organization. It involves a sincere curiosity into the affairs of the organization with the aim of accepting new views. It works under a number of principles which guides the change process. This method differs from the traditional approach in that; it focuses on the positive aspects of the organization.
Barret, F. and Fry, R. (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A positive Approach to Cooperative Capacity Building..Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publishing.
Billings, D., M. and Kowalski, K. (2008). Appreciative inquiry. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing; Vol. (39) 3, p104-104.
Bushe, G.R. and Pitman, T. (1991) “Appreciative Process: a method of Transformational Change”. Organization Development Practitioner, 23:3, 1-4.
Cooperrider, D.and D. Whitney. (1999). Appreciative Inquiry: Collaborating for Change. Berret-Koehler, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Maier, T., A. (2009). Appreciative Inquiry and Hospitality Leadership. Journal of Human Resources in Hospitality & Tourism, (8)1. 106 — 117
Peggy H., Tom D., and Cady S. (2007). The Change Handbook. Berret-Koehler, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Srithica, T., M. and Bhattacharyya, S. (2009) Facilitating Organizational Unlearning using Appreciative Inquiry as an Intervention. Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers, October 1, 2009.
Stavros, J. and Torres, C. (2005). Dynamic Relationship: Unleashing the Power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily living.Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publishing.
Van V., J. and Crous, F. (2008). Utilising Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in Creating a Shared Meaning of Ethics in Organisations. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 57, No. 4 pp. 399-412
Whitney, D. Tosten-Bloom, A. (2003). The Power of Appreciative Inquiry. Berret- Koehler. San Francisco, CA, USA.