Training and Development
The 4-D Model
The Result of the Process
The Planning Dean had been exposed to Appreciative Inquiry on a recent Women in Leadership Program and saw the potential of the process to provide an inclusive and generative approach to developing the new Faculty. She was committed to building the new Faculty on the "best of" what existed, she wanted a consultative process so as to provide voice and space for all participants and she wanted a deliverable at the end: a new Faculty Blueprint, to which everyone was committed.
A three stage process over six weeks was planned based on the 4-D Model of Appreciative Inquiry. In stage one everyone was invited to a two day celebration which covered the Discover and Dream phases. Self selected, representative concept teams were formed to pursue Discovery questions, emergent topics and provocative proposals with those unable to attend. Two weeks later, participants returned for a two day workshop which addressed the Design phase. Finally, two weeks later a one day workshop addressed the Deliver phase.
She proceeded to provide
an overview of the 4-D Model and stressed the following desired outputs
of the process:
to interview each other, in mixed pairs, using the sample interview protocol
provided. The appreciative questions were specifically designed to focus
on personal highpoints, co-operative relationships, types of communication,
hopes for the future, values and positive images.
Note: Spark the appreciative imagination of the other. Learn from each other. Share key stories that unearth values. Follow what you are sincerely curious about.
People were asked to pair up with someone they didn't know and didn't work with so as to discover cross discipline stories. These were retold in small groups of 8 people who reported back on emergent, compelling topics.
Ten topics emerged
in the large group plenary session. These were:
In order to facilitate
the process of developing provocative propositions which were to frame
the social and strategic intent of the new faculty, these topics were
grouped into five themes; Leadership and Management, Communication,
Marketing, Teaching and Learning and Research.
These provocative propositions, grounded as they were in the group's collective positive organisational experiences, reflected the "ideal" shape and practice of the new faculty. There was a shared sense of excitement that the group was in a position to impact the manner in which they organised and the future direction of the emergent faculty. A need was expressed to rise above the five provocative propositions and to dream a vision statement that would represent the new faculty. This suggestion was considered important by the group who felt that an overarching statement of intent could best be used for "external consumption" (e.g. students, industry, other faculties) whilst the provocative propositions were to guide their internal organising dynamics. The large group divided randomly into four groups who proceeded to brainstorm ideal statements which would capture and define the "spirit" of the new Faculty.
The vision that emerged was:
"People and Technology: Communicating in the 21st Century"
Followed by the mission statement:
and inspire knowledge and learning by linking people and information using
the best of:
In the final hours
of the first two day workshop, the group worked out how best to include
their colleagues in the process. A "concept team" was formed
around each of the five provocative propositions. The composition of these
teams purposefully included academic, administrative, multiple disciplinary,
multi campus representatives. There task was to interview their colleagues
on the topics, provocative propositions and proposed vision statement
prior to the send workshop. A small transition monitoring group was also
formed to explore and report on any other issues relating to how people
felt about the transition towards the new Faculty. A co-ordinating Faculty
Advisory Committee was established comprising the Planning Dean and the
Chairs of each of the concept teams.
The concept teams focussed on their own provocative propositions and developed a list of key operational impact issues. They continued work on these operational impacts by developing a project plan for each provocative proposition including scheduled tasks, accountabilities, resource implications and a timeline. Each concept team reported their implementation proposal to the large group in a lively plenary session. The proposals were refined to maximise synergies across the teams, and to generate collective commitment and excitement around the creation of the new faculty.
The concept teams progressed the application of their revised project plans and proceeded to map a detailed transition plan towards the new faculty. Observable changes in modus operandi were evident in terms of how the concept teams approached their tasks. For example, the Leadership and Management concept team facilitated an appreciative dialogue with the large group on the range of options which existed for structural change and development of new decision making forums. After everyone's active participation in the process, a format for broader consultation with colleagues unable to attend the workshop was developed and endorsed by the group.
The excellent output from the second workshop was based on and constantly linked to the topics and provocative propositions from the first workshop. There was exceptional commitment, goodwill, tolerance and willingness to explore the operational impacts of the Discover and the Dream phase outputs.
It was impressive
to realise how much work was voluntarily undertaken between the second
and third workshop as each of the concept teams consulted with colleagues
and established what would work best in their implementation plans.
The leadership and management concept team presented provocative options for the function and form of the new faculty based on their additional extensive, collegial consultations. It was finally agreed that the new Faculty would have three theme-based schools; Decision Sciences, Contemporary Communication and Technology , with a team of administrative support staff overlaying the school structure. The schools would have permeable walls and staff would be able to move between schools for teaching, community service and research purposes.
The final process involved clarifying appropriate and meaningful Faculty performance indicators. These emerged directly from the provocative propositions (or statements of social and strategic intent) in the first workshop. Examples of performance indicators include:
Teaching and learning
Finalise proposal for rationalised units - Faculty Education Committee
(March 1998), Academic Board (June 1998)
Leadership and management
Have management structures in place with widespread and active support by December 1997
The Appreciative Inquiry approach to moving a large group of people with multiple agendas towards a collective view of the future and their contribution to that future resulted in a number of positive outputs:
With respect to the appreciative process and the 4-D Model, some examples of feedback from participants include:
"Very positive, I valued the "staged" timing of the workshops as there was time to reflect"
"I considered the time investment worthwhile and felt, for the first time in any change we've been through, that there was collective ownership of the outcome"
The 4-D Model and the appreciative inquiry process provides client organisations with a practical tool and a positive approach to facilitating large-scale change. Whilst the facilitator continually adapts and invents strategies to move the group, the energy and collective goodwill of the group becomes self-sustaining.
The key "value
adding" skills that the facilitator brings to the appreciative planning
Flexible and Pragmatic Process Management
My experience is that clients require ongoing reassurance that the process is leading somewhere. In this respect the 4-D model supported by carefully designed worksheets, is a helpful guide and a confidence building tool to organise large group input and interaction with a view to delivering a meaningful “product” at the end. In terms of pace and space for dialogue in the process, I have found that time spent storytelling at the front end of the process will be directly reflected in the quality of, and commitment to, the deliverable’s at the back end of the process. The manner in which topics emerge from small group story reflections and how these are subsequently translated into provocative propositions is a challenge. One lesson to be aware of at this stage relates to the facilitator’s “stewardship” of the process. In my case I am conscious of attempting to creatively ensure that contextual factors such as “strategic givens” are integrated into the development of provocative propositions. Examples of “strategic givens” may be the budgetary allocation available or a key player’s perspective, which will influence the planning outcome. Working through the 4-D model is an iterative process: the group may commence exploration of the design process, which, in turn, raises further questions about their propositions and their capacity to deliver. The 4-D model and appreciative inquiry enables the group to create a new language for planning through appreciating the interrelated components of the process.
A final skill that the facilitator requires is a perceptive and anticipatory knowledge of the contextual issues faced by the client so as to be able to usefully direct energies towards an outcome within which all parties can see themselves operating productively.
Acute Listening: This skill is probably implicit in all sound facilitative processes, however; I have experienced a shift in what I listen for! Cooperrider, a leading exponent of appreciative inquiry into organisational life, has applied the notion of an appreciative eye to business (Hammond, 1996: 6). To the appreciative eye, organisations are expressions of beauty and spirit. I am experiencing the development of an “appreciative ear”. Listening for how people create possibilities, listening for their stories and examples of their best experiences and ideas in organisations. Reflecting on these and using them to fuel the appreciative inquiry process in terms of the best of what is and the best of what can be is the key to facilitative process. I have found that the energy I commit to listening and reframing with the appreciative ear is considerable. As a facilitator, my ears are tuned to positive experiences, how things can work best and how unexpected synergies have been achieved. Pleasant exhaustion at the end of a day of appreciative inquiry is a positive indicator for me that my appreciative ear has been exercised.
I believe that the best facilitator’s acknowledge the context of their
life experience, their assumptions and their commitment to assisting their
client achieve the best possible outcome from the process. Based on the
initial brief by the client, the facilitator makes choices about content
and process delivery to achieve an outcome. The values that underpin
my approach include “making it easy”, facilitating the best out the client
and his/her staff. The end result of the process is almost always unknown
– one should never contrive an appreciative inquiry process – hence the
stories, topics, propositions, organising methods and deliverables emerge
in process. At each step of the way, the facilitator exposes his/her interest
and values in terms of the nuances, emphases, and ways of reporting and
reflective summarising techniques used. I am more conscious than
ever now of the ongoing need to exercise the appreciative philosophy and
positive care in every facilitation expression.
Ability to spontaneously reframe questions in an attempt to get the best out of everybody: Wedded to the assumption that organisational effort follows the line of inquiry, the manner in which questions are used at every stage of the process has assumed paramount importance. The collaborative design of the initial interview protocol, which underpins the discovery phase, works best when tailored to the context of the organisation, people’s experiences and hopes for the future. The questions surrounding the generation of topics need to be framed in terms of the best categories, the most representative groupings, the deepest passions, the most valued components etc. The questions which push the boundaries of imagination for generating provocative propositions relate to being “bold enough”, interrupting one’s thinking, illustrating pride in a product or service, affirming commitment to core business or a daring redefinition of core business. Questions relating to design of new and innovative ways of organising relate to who is best at what, who is most interested in what, who has expertise in what and how. Practically, can it all be made to happen in an agreed timeframe, given the resources available? Finally, questions about delivery are designed to link intent to outcomes. How will we know we have achieved the intent of our provocative propositions? How does it all fit together? Is there a stream of passion and logic through the process and the product that we have developed? Who is going to benefit and how best can we communicate these achievements?
While the positive thrust of the inquiry described above appears straight forward, the dynamics of every group are naturally different. Holding on to the belief that the process is meaningful, worthwhile and productive involves the facilitator in multiple spontaneous reframing, inputting and provocative inquiry processes.
The appreciative inquiry principles of appreciation, application, provocation and collaboration apply as much to the facilitator as they do to the group. The facilitator models, in many respects, the journey, which is undertaken with the group. It is very useful for the facilitator to engage in mini processes of the 4-D cycles of appreciative inquiry into his/her own facilitative approach in order to accumulate and keep developing best interventions, process techniques and questions to enhance their own professional practice.
Appreciative consultation is a "way of being" in our management consultancy practice. The theory and approach has enabled us to participate with our clients in the positive social construction of their organisational worlds. We are surprised and delighted at the multiple applications of Appreciative Inquiry in corporate, government and higher education institutions. We have found that using the approach involves a true commitment to people and processes in change and this commitment can be shared and can deliver outcomes to clients which exceed traditional planning and evaluation methods.
Appreciative Inquiry offers management consultants and their clients a
low cost high impact change process which deals with culture, strategy
and structure simultaneously.
Hammond, S. (1996) The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, Thin Book Publishing Company, Plano, TX (972 378 0523)
Mellish, L. and Limerick, B. (1997) Appreciative consultation: Reclaiming our imaginative competence: Paper presented at the 1997 Australian Human Resources Institute National Conference: The Journey to Business Partner Brisbane
|© 2000 Mellish and Associates
Last Updated 04/05/01