The Anthony Approach By Anthony Shaheen
Extension Educator/Community Innovation/Leadership Appreciative Inquiry is a new innovative way of approaching change. It is almost opposite of the traditional approach of change management theory. For example, the traditional model would ask the question "What problems are you having?"where appreciative inquiry would ask, "What is working around here?" Here is another point. Say you do a survey to poll people's experience with you and/or your company. Out of all the surveys, 5 percent reported they did not like the experience and 95 percent said that they did enjoy the experience. Now traditional change management theory would follow up with the 5 percent that were unsatisfied, where appreciative inquiry would follow up and focus on the 95 percent that enjoyed the experience by finding out what they are doing right instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong. Appreciative Inquiry states that we all have an "appreciative eye." "The idea of the appreciative eye assumes that in every piece of art there is beauty." (p.6) Organizations are expressions and are "viewed as organic, which means all parts are defined by the whole; thus, you cannot take an organization apart to study pieces."(p.7) Appreciative Inquiry looks for what works well in an organization and builds off of that. When workers start making statements on what works, they become motivated and see that they do their job correctly. "Because statements are grounded in real experience and history, people know how to repeat their success." People walk away with new purpose, commitment, and verification that they have been successful. Try this question at the end of your next meeting, "What did we, as a group, do well in this meeting?" Watch peoples' reactions. The responses will start coming in and they will be worded correctly according to your position; the employees do not want to say the wrong thing. "Responses will quickly turn into a discussion about what didn't work. We are very good at talking about what doesn't work."(p.9) We all have had much experience in looking at what is being done incorrectly. "It never occurs to us that we can 'fix' an organization or even our society by doing more of what works." (p.9) This seems obvious, doesn't it? You can try it, appreciative inquiry is fairly simple. When you use it and see how it still provides you with information in a way that does not demoralize your employees, you will wonder why this was not tried before. "Asking appreciative questions, [you] still get the information [you] need but the difference is, the organization has the confirmed knowledge, confidence, and inspiration that they did well, and will continue to do well with heightened awareness of what works." (p.12) Hammond, Sue Annis (1996) The Think Book of Appreciative Inquiry. ISBN 0-9665373-1-9. Thin Book Publishing Co.