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Posts tagged ‘engagement’

OD Theory – Appreciative Inquiry

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioners must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Appreciative Inquiry in Brief

Appreciative Inquiry rationalises and reinforces the habit of mind that moves through the world in a generative frame, seeking and finding images of the possible rather than scenes of disaster and despair.

Appreciative Inquiry involves a cooperative systematic exploration, discovery and recognition of the best in people and the organisation, affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potential.  It is a theory, a mindset, and an approach to analysis that leads to organisational learning and creativity.

At its heart Appreciative Inquiry strengthens a organisation’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential through the use of positive questioning, imagination and innovation.  It seeks to deliberately engage the whole of the organisational population, and get them to explore and tapping into rich and inspiring accounts of the positive.

The energy created from this exploration gives momentum to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.  By focusing on the organisations strengths, rather than focusing on problems, the resulting output elicits solutions by fully engaging everyone in the organisation.

Key Points

  • Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what the organisation is doing right and provides a frame for creating an imagined future.
  • Seeking and finding the generative rather than the destructive image is powerful.
  • Human behaviour is shaped by “current reality.”
  • There is an impact on human behaviour of “anticipatory reality.”  Research suggests that human beings create the future that we imagine.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry in an OD Intervention

  1. Ensure that the organisation has made a commitment to continuous learning, growth, and generative change.
  2. Help the organisation find its own way and its own path through an inquiry process that seeks the most creative and generative realities.
  3. Help individuals and organisations to realise that we can be limited and constrained by our inability to see larger and more expansive realities that are available.
  4. Provide the environment to help individuals and groups explore beyond what they already know and understand.
  5. Shape dialogue around ‘what is’ rather than ‘what is not.’

No more Upstairs Downstairs?

Well not literally, but it provides a useful metaphor.  The TV programme Upstairs Downstairs portrays life in the 1930’s and the separate lives of those who served and those who were served.  These same divisions may seem like something committed to history and TV dramas; but the furore about the gap between CEO remuneration and that of their employees, the political debate about taxing the rich or taxing the poor and the widening gap between rich and poor suggests that the division between those ‘Upstairs’ and those ‘Downstairs’ is alive and well.

When I started my first corporate job the offices were arranged as the proverbial ivory tower.  The CEOs office and senior leadership team were at the top of the building, then the next level of management and all the way down to the basement where the new starts (muggins included) worked in the dimly lit basement.  Then of course their were the parking spaces, the further down the food chain you were the further you walked to the office; and most amusing was the seating in the canteen and even the food that was served being determined by your pay grade.  No quite food glorious food from the movie Oliver Twist but the food served to the CEO was definitely a finer cut.

The days of the walnut panelled office may have been replaced with open plan office but the separation between employers and employees is being felt in organisations across the UK.

The problem with remuneration is that it isn’t about how much someone gets paid, but whether they perceive whether what they are being paid is fair pay for the work they have done.  Hertzberg identified pay as a demotivating factor.  The problem with the perceived over payment at the top of the ladder, and the increasing pressure on family budgets caused by the economic circumstances, austerity measures and rising prices; is that employees feel they are being treated unfairly.

To know that those at the top of the organisation have seen pay rises of around 49% in the last twelve months when the average employee has had their pay frozen or below inflationary pay rises whilst the work environment has become more difficult and pressurised.  A breeding ground for demotivation and disengagement among employees.  This in turn will have an impact on organisation performance, which will impact profitability.

If organisations are going to grow their way out of the economic downturn, they need to ensure that their employees are behind them; and to do that they need to be behind their employees.  It may be tempting to cut costs and hold wages, but if that is happening, then the senior leadership teams must demonstrate that they are ‘in it together’ with the employees.  Increasing perks, and remuneration packages at the top whilst being meagre at the bottom is not only morally questionable but bad for business.  One person at the top of the organisation can do nothing without the employees working for them.

Doing the right thing by your employees at this time, is doing the right thing by the organisation and will result to improved organisational performance.