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#AppreciativeInquiry with Teams: an article by Gervase Bushe – use it for #Lean

Here is a very interesting article I stumbled upon from Gervase Bushe: Appreciative Inquiry with Teams.

The article gives different way of using Appreciative Inquiry with teams to help them solve issues and perform more rapidly (in the case of a newly formed team). Both dos and don’ts are proposed.

I find this paper really interesting in the context of introducing teams to Lean and using some appreciative or positive approach for that purpose (the paper also mentioned some Solution Focused approach, though without naming it).

This is the kind of straightforward and very operational paper that lights your mind and that you know how you could put is to its best use (or give it your best try in order to learn by doing).

Thanks Mr Bushe!


Doing #Agile retrospectives with #AppreciativeInquiry

I’ve just stumbled upon a very nice article about doing “Appreciatives Restrospectives” at the end of an agile sprint: An Appreciative Retrospective | AYE Conference.

Could that be used during a Lean morning meeting when by changing the focus from problems to what worked (and capitalize on it through standardization)?


Reblog: Compassionate #Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily (#appreciativeinquiry)

Here is a very interesting article on BusinessNewsDaily about coaching people for a positive vision, backed with research on brain imagery: Compassionate Coaching Evokes Better Results | Business News Daily.

Coincidentally (or not?), the research was done at Case Western Reserve University, home of Appreciative Inquiry.

Applications in parenting and management is cited in the article.

Donella Meadows: #vision is a necessity before any other #systemsthinking method (sort of #AppreciativeInquiry)

Reading through the Systems Thinking World LinkedIn Group, Gene Bellinger (SystemsWiki owner and group owner) posted the link below to a video of Donella Meadows talking about Vision.

Meadows is a renowned systems thinker whose main work is the “Limits to Growth” book about how our continuing use of non renewable resources will bring a brutal stop to our growth.

In the video posted (, Meadows talks about the very importance of always having a vision in mind before trying to do something and how this helped her discover things that she thought she wouldn’t have otherwise. Read more »

What questions do we need to ask to raise awareness of #SystemsThinking?

I recently asked this question on the LinkedIn group Systems Thinking World.

My objective was to try to conduct an Appreciative Inquiry into what works for successfully explaining and making people use Systems Thinking. Few people connected to that initial inquiry, so I went for the question above (blog post title).

I got some interesting answers that I grouped by topic and assembled into a SurveyMonkey survey.

You’re invited to participate in the survey by clicking here.

I plan to publish the results by the beginning of 2011.

Meanwhile, I wish you some happy Christmas and end of year holidays!

Why I think Lean is (also) strength-based

November 10th, 2010 Posted in Appreciative Inquiry, Change, Lean Tags: , ,

A lot of people from the strength movement (Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus, etc.) view Lean as a deficit-based only approach to change. I disagree. Or at least I’d like to temper this idea.

Although it’s mainly presented that way in most litterature, I do view it as a very positive approach to change. Only often the positive future is mainly in the senseï‘s head (term for a Lean coach). When “doing Lean” in an organization, what the Lean coach is trying to achieve is have people (and management) make more of what works in other organizations. That’s what so-called “Lean tools” are: demonstrated best practices principles to improve an organization. Management and collaborators should always devise their way of improving their own jobs (because that creates more engagement), it’s sometimes quicker to reuse and adapt best practices that worked elsewhere.

Lean tools (with accompanying management model) are designed to show a gap between what’s wanted (a better view of the future) and what’s currently happening. And this gap may be a deficit OR a strength as reality could be better than what was intended at the beginning. Hence, collaborators have the opportunity to detect strengths and replicate them (we call this “standardize” in Lean terms).

Now I’m not saying Lean isn’t also deficit based. It does look at under-performance and ask collaborators to solve problems but only in order to achieve excellence (very positive vision).

Of course, all that I talked about above is true when Lean is “properly” done, which means that some policy deployment (“hoshin kanri“) has been done and that all collaborators had the opportunity to imagine a better future and ways to achieve it. Though Appreciative Inquiry is not mentioned in that part of Lean, I view policy deployement as a way to Dream about a better future. The Discovery (Inquiry) part may be missing in policy deployment, but it surely is present in day to day operations (or should be, and that’s the role of management of ensuring that both problems AND strengths are discovered – problems get fixed and strengths replicated).

Oh, and strengths (or solutions to problems) need also to be discussed with other team members, so collective inquiry into improving / replicating strengths is indeed present. This is done through creation of “A3” (named after the size of the paper on which that activity is done) where a situation is collectively discussed and ways of improving it (possibly by replicating what others may be already doing) collected and shared.

To end this article, I’d like to advocate people that would like to reinforce the strength-based approach of Lean to participate in the LinkedIn group “Strength-Based Lean Thinking / Six Sigma

Viable Systems Model useful for Change Management

It just occurs to me that Ross Ashby’s law of requisite variety as operationally described in the Viable System Model (Checkland – See my delicious links about VSM here) might be a very good model for what consultants refer to as “Change Management”.

I’m talking here of “big changes”, the kind of which that mandates communication plans, sponsor involvement, a full blown CM toolbox… and of which it is usually expected a high resistance in reaction.

The fact is that most (if not all) organizations are both hierarchical and, well, big. By big, I refer to the capacity of anyone to devise ways of implementing the change in all of the impacted parts of the organization: if no one can hold that in their mind, then it’s “big”.

Now, I can see that most Change Management approaches (try Googling it to see for yourself!) try to deploy heavy guns for big changes. That encompasses talking and listening deeply to impacted people as well as driving out fear, devising very precise and specific agendas for change adapted to the part of the organization undergoing change, etc.

My question is: what’s the point of exhausting (paying) some consultants to imagine (necessarily incomplete and unadapted) actions plans for all impacted parts of the organization, when the very same work can be better done from these parts themselves? And with more engagement since they will be involved in the work and everybody knows that we’re more willing to engage with what we’ve helped design?

Now, when one’s looking at the VSM model (open up some external picture from these links), we can imagine the purpose of the change initiative being System 5 (policy), which informs relations between System 4 (external monitoring of change conditions for instance) and system 3 (management). Then system 3, management, has the role of taking care of relations between Operational Units (Systems 1) through information brought up by System 2 (conflict management).

Using the preceding model, one can envision Management (S3) being informed of the change to be done and then “configuring” dashboards (S2) to follow attainment of the change outcome as defined in S5. The way the outcome needs to be attained is then let up to each and every  OU (all of impacted S1s). As autonomous entities (as per the VSM model), they are the ones to know best what needs to be done and how it could be best done to achieve the expected outcome.

I understand that what I’m describing above is related to “complexity management” and post-modern approaches to change. It’s mentioned in a back issue of the AI Practitioner (Appreciative Inquiry online magazine): see november 2008 introduction. You can buy that issue on the AI Practitioner web site. Now, AI is a way to involve the whole system further than what can probably be done using more traditional “policy deployement” as suggested by the VSM. But that’s another story (I’ll write on this soon).

Do you have some stories to share of “cascading change management” as described here (probably without the VSM reference!) ?

AI Design phase is like setting objectives

October 27th, 2010 Posted in Appreciative Inquiry Tags: ,

Being new to AI and from a technical problem solving area (IT engineering), I’ve been struggling a bit around the Design phase. After reading some back issue of the AI Practitioner magazine (wonderful in the high quality of the articles it features!), it stroke me that the Design phase of an AI intervention might be explained as an objectives definition phase.

Of course, it’s far more powerful as any other objectives definition, because it builds on the previous Discovery and Dream steps. I do see them as steps on a stairway, because it allows participants in the AI workshop to be higher than what some other approach would have brought them, in terms of vision and positive hopes.

I’ve feared that when trying to introduce AI to people around me (especially management), they’d see it as some sort of utopian approach. Indeed, there is a logical progression from Discovery of current reality (as appreciatively inquired into its best moments) to Dream of a better future and then a stake in the ground is done of that Dream in the form of the bold and provocative propositions (what needs to be true for the Dream to occur). Then of course, the Destiny/Deliver phase is an action plan to achieve these propositions.

I see AI as a way to reverse cause and effect relationships. One usually live in a world where past and present causes effect a (planned, anticipated) future. Now with AI, envisionned future is not just mental imagery, it’s firmly grounded and, like a lighthouse, attracting us to it. Indeed, the (dreamed of) effect is creating the necessary causes for it to exist.

I might have  summarized too much of the intrinsic magic of the 4D process, but I was not trying to explain the whole AI approach in this article (maybe some other day, and in french as it’s not quite well know here…)

What’s your comments on this?

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