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Posts tagged ‘Experiential Learning’

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.’

How do you Articulate Organisational Purpose?

On an individual level we my occasionally wonder what our purpose is. Organisations very often set strategic goals which are financially driven, but forget the reason why the organisation exists in the first place

Where does the answer to the question “What is our purpose” come from?

The first thing to understand is that you do not create purpose. Purpose is what it is; it is why the organisation exists in the first place. The unconscious organisation can articulate purpose through four diagnostic phases: Consult. Listen. Simplify. Understand.

Phase 1: Interviews with Key Stakeholders
The start point of articulating organisation purpose is to get people to talk to one another, via structured interviews with key stakeholders both internally and externally. The interviewer must encourage interviewees to tell stories about the organisation at its best by asking questions about what the interviewee understood about the organisation at that time.

Phase 2: Appreciative Inquiry of Organisational Purpose
Appreciative inquiry simply means recognizing what is best about the organisation (appreciative) by asking questions (inquiry). There are two options for Appreciative inquiry at an organisational level;

a) Organisational Purpose Forums
Groups of employees are taken through a process where a facilitator helps forum members to describe their best experience of the organisation in as much detail as possible while encouraging the rest of the forum to be curious and ask questions. Once the exploration is complete, the facilitator asks, on the basis of what the forum have just discussed, to develop a consensus on what really matters to the organisation.

b) Organisational Purpose Conference
For larger organisations it may be impractical to run numerous forums over a long period of time therefore a large group event is recommended.
The opportunity cost of ‘lost’ work, and the added value of getting so many people together in an appreciative climate can easily lead to productivity benefits which are significantly greater than the cost of the conference.

Phase 3: Articulating Purpose
Once the interview and appreciative inquiry phases are completed a small but diverse, team is appointed to examine the outputs and articulate the organisational purpose. It may take a number of drafts, and it is recommended that the statement of organisational purpose is stress tested with focus groups.

Phase 4: Shared Purpose
For employees to own the organisational purpose they need to share the purpose, so, creating mechanisms to communicate how the organisational purpose relates to their day to day work is essential. Whether it is in meetings, one to ones, presentations, taglines on internal organisational literature, in employee briefings, newsletters, company magazines, social media, press releases, posters, mouse mats or even the screen saver on company computers; if it can be written, blogged, tweeted, spoken, mentioned or referred to – do it.

Everyday Learning and Development – Personal Development

The human capacity to learn and develop is phenomenal.  Have you ever stopped to wonder how you have managed to learn everything you know, and how to do everything you do?  Just think about the things you don’t think about; walking, talking, getting dressed, understanding social cues, eating, driving, reading – at some point you would have had to learn about all those things.

I learnt about Language acquisition when I was at Leeds University studying my degree, but to watch my two year old daughter learn how to communicate is amazing.  As a newborn crying for attention, but as a parent I soon learnt there were different cries for different needs.  Then babbling, making different noises, grunting and pointing to get her point across (and getting upset when I didn’t understand).  Then the babbling and pointing began to turn into recognisable words, and every day there were a couple of new words.  Now those words are turning into sentences and are very recognisable – and she has a few words that are unique to her, but we all understand what she means.

But learning new things isn’t restricted to the young.  At 37 I learn new things all the time.  It may be that I have to learn how to drive to a new football ground for my sons Sunday league football; how to use my new mobile phone; or how to increase my SEO ratings.  This week I will find out how to make my way to Costa Coffee in Warrington, and any number of titbits picked up from various online blogs, tweets and webinars.

I bet you have all ‘learnt’ similar things this week but took it for granted, after all finding your way to places, learning how to use equipment or technology and digesting the news is just part of life; and yet we will pay thousands for courses to learn new skills or knowledge; organisations spend millions on the implementation of new technology platforms, and publishing is no longer restricted to publishing houses but all add to our collective knowledge.

It is well known in development circles that the most effective development methods are on the job.  Learners tend to retain the learning for longer and take in a greater measure of development than they do on workshops.  Being able to immediately apply knowledge and skills, rather than trying to retain newly acquired learning as a concept is also more efficient.

As a developer of people and organisations I still like the workshop for its ability to take people aside from their busy lives and focus on a specific area of development.  I think it is especially useful for teams who wish to develop strategy, the team or a deeper understanding an individuals strengths, beliefs and values.

But there is a distinguishing feature of workshops that I would like to prompt your thinking about.  Very often managers will say to me, this development is fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed today and got a lot out of it, but I am worried about getting back to reality; as if the workshop is some kind of parallel universe where real work doesn’t get done.

Yet if you were to ask a manager whether they feel that meetings are real work or not, the answer would be depends on the meeting, whether the meeting is useful or not.  So if the manager found the workshop useful, why do they see it as not being real life?

Too often individuals separate their personal development from their work environment, and then struggle to apply their learning.  But if you were to take your learning; whether in a workshop, a conversation or what you read on the internet and asked yourself “so what does that mean for me?” you might be surprised at how your new learning can help you grow and development regardless of the position you work in now.

My challenge for those who have the opportunity to attend a development workshop is to see it not as stepping out of reality but as an opportunity to step aside from (but not out of the reality of) the hubbub and concentrate on something important without interruption.

I would then like to deliver a Development Elephant to them.  Very often in a workshop I will ask participants to think about what the workshop has reminded them they have learnt previously but forgotten about.  Very often a participants development gets forgotten when they return back to their ‘day job’.  Workbooks get put in a pile, are used to prop up a wonky desk or are stuffed in a draw or brief case where they start gathering dust.

So I urge you to take ten@ten – and pay attention to the #DevelopmentElephant.

The purpose of the Development Elephant is to remind you to take 10 minutes at 10 o’clock every day to revisit an action plan or workbook from a previous workshop, meeting or personal development time, and think about;

  1. What were the things that you were going to do differently?
  2. What have you done so far?
  3. What do you still need to do?