Discover: Start with a discussion about the best experiences within the organization. What conditions led to these great experiences? At what point did we really execute? What reward and recognition programs fueled these high points? What can we do to cultivate and build on conditions that create success?
One of the take-aways from the Discovery step is a common theme(s). Perhaps you are able to capture a new or better vision and strategy. Maybe roles and responsibilities get redefined. Whatever the deliverables are, we learn and create a set of critical conditions for future success. This is why a learning environment is so important to making sure Appreciative Inquiry will work. Without a strong learning organization, you really can't get past the first step of Appreciative Inquiry.
If you are not sure about how to create a learning organization, then consider these critical questions:
- How adaptive is the organization to change; especially with external forces?
- Is there a deliberate process in place for both individual learning and organizational-wide learning?
- Does the organization have an open culture, encouraging new ideas and innovation?
- Is the organization using with it learns, translating new knowledge into results?
- Does the organization reward and recognize learning and growth?
Dream : Capture the various visions that exist throughout the organization. Establish strategic goals from the positive things already in-place – already doing it, but if we could do more of it, then this will happen.
Design : Specific action plans are now developed based on the value propositions from the Dream step. What actions must we take to realize our dreams? How best do we deploy resources to nurture these dreams? In some cases we may have to become more flexible – giving people increased opportunity to feel energized around these dreams. Perhaps we need more technology to empower the workforce or maybe a peer review evaluation process is needed to bind team members across functional areas. Regardless, you need to have a design plan for making the dream a reality.
Deliver : Once everyone concurs on the design plans, it's time to start doing it. Specific responsibilities must be established along with measures of accountability. It is also important to monitor the resource needs since assumptions from the Design step invariably require revisions. Therefore, the Deliver step of Appreciative Inquiry often leads us right back to where we started – discovering and learning new things, going through the 4 D Model iteration of Discover, Dream, Design and Deliver. And perhaps this is why Appreciative Inquiry is easy to implement, the ease at which we flow through the four phases, making progress with each iteration.
“Appreciative Inquiry is a complex philosophy that engages the entire system in an inquiry about what works. The inquiry discovers data that is then analyzed for common themes. The group articulates the themes and dreams of “what could be” and “what will be.” What will be is the future envisioned through an analysis of the past. The entire system maintains the best of the past by discovering what it is and stretching it into future possibilities. This differs from other visioning work because the envisioned future is grounded in the reality of the actual past.” - What is Appreciative Inquiry by Joe Hall and Sue Hammond
If you are seeking a simple and natural approach to planning, then Appreciative Inquiry warrants your attention. There is great beauty in simplicity and Appreciative Inquiry is one of the most beautiful things to happen to strategic planning in a long time.
Recommended Reading : The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom