Appreciative Inquiry for Organisational Change

Helping change to stick!

If you have ever been involved in organisational change, cultural change or working with communities to encourage the adoption of a new initiative, one of the laments you may have heard is around ownership of the change and people see change as being imposed upon them.

My background is in cultural change and transformational change management within organisations and I have heard this many times throughout my corporate career from business, programme and project managers. A lack of ‘buy in’ is normally coupled with people either resisting the new idea or maybe only partially taking part, which can mean that there is limited success.

So, what is the answer? How do you increase ‘buy-in’ in terms of change to increase the sustainability and successful implementation of the initiative? How do you practically de-nominalize ‘change’ to become a process; a process that is proactively embraced by others? How do you increase buy-in and have people within the organisation changing? How do you help them to be advocates and have a vested interest in the project working? How do you make sure that the solution is useful and workable?

One possible way

Well one of the many ways to achieve this is to use a process and methodology called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). AI was created by David Cooperrider in the 1970s;

"AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the ‘unconditional positive question’ often involving hundreds and sometimes thousands of people." - David Cooperrider

The AI Principles are very similar to NLP:

  • Constructionist - what we believe to be real in this world is created through our social interactions.

  • Simultaneity – Inquiry is change.

  • Anticipatory – our behaviour and actions are driven by our past as well as what we anticipate or imagine will happen in the future.

  • Poetic – value of storytelling.

  • Positive – positive is just as contagious and as valid a way of learning as negative plus it can deliver longer lasting change.

  • Wholeness – parts are a small piece of a larger whole – it is our choice whether we see the part or the larger whole.

The AI’s process is built upon asking the right questions – those that really make the difference, while using the following 5D cycle;

The secret of AI’s success is two-fold; firstly it can be used with large numbers of people, communities, whole organisations etc. which means that you are involving the people who will be most impacted by the change at the beginning of the process so that they can help shape it. Plus it encourages people to look at what is good about what they currently do, so that this can be taken forward into the future. The change therefore is grounded in positive experiences, increasing the probability of success whilst creating a powerful way to gain buy-in and commitment to change.

How you can use AI

You can use AI with Dilts’ Neurological Levels to create congruence throughout each level; to shape and define the purpose of the organisation/group, the identity and vision, to develop the values that are needed to deliver the vision right the way through to the beliefs, skills, capabilities and environment needed to enable successful change.

To really fully understand the power of AI, the best way is to actually experience it first-hand; to step into each of the elements of the process and to experience it for yourself.

If you are curious to see how the Appreciative Inquiry process works and discover the synergies with NLP, do consider joining Emma McNallys session at the NLP International Conference on Saturday 18th May 2019.