Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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A response to Youtellus: The power of questions

I really like this blog post: Youtellus: The power of questions. All the stuff about asking powerful and mind-blowing questions is true and should be practiced all day long.

Yet, this part makes me wonder:

“Leaders and managers have the obligation to always look for ways that the organization as a whole can function more effectively.To do this, they need to ask questions about practices, processes, persons and structures:
Why do we things this way?is there a better approach?”

I mean, do we really need to ask people questions about practices, processes and structures? I guess that if we do, we’d find problems. People rarely get interested in these (I do, but then, I’m a Lean coach, so that doesn’t count because I’m not “normal” 🙂

To be a bit more serious, I was interested in processes at the beginning because I was a sort of productivity geek. But then I understood that improving processes with Lean or Six Sigma was not a matter of using tools. Even further, it was not a process matter.

Improving organization is a people thing.

I don’t mean a social or psychological thing (though these may help, but at the same level as can IT for instance – heck, I am in IT now!) When I say “people” I mean real people, with a head and a heart!

Improving organizations is about taking care of your people and what they care about.

And in the sentence “what they care about“, the important word is not “what” (it’s none of your business) nor is it “care” (how they do it: again, it’s personal to them). What’s important is “they“.

  • If you want money in your pocket as a manager, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to improve your organization’s efficiency, you won’t be able to motivate people.
  • If you want to serve your customers better, you won’t be able to motivate your people.

In order to motivate your people, you need to help them identify their WIIFM factor: What’s In It For Me?

You need to ensure your people have identified what motivates them (but they’ll tell you only if they want to). You need to provide them with the support they need from you.

By instituting a permanent Dialogue between your people regarding what and how they want to contribute to the world, you will be able to fuel the change your organization desperately needs. By building on what works for them, they’ll build an organization that will also:

  • work well (efficiency)
  • provide your customers what they want (efficacy)
  • and help them fulfill their dreams
  • which may, in the end, provide some earning for you (and them) as a side effect.

Of course, you need to trust your people to be able to come to an agreement about making a profitable company. But do you sincerely think they’ll imagine something that can’t pay their salary?

If you don’t trust your people, they’ll notice and they won’t trust you. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Try giving first and see what happens. Only a bit, something that you won’t regret afterwards. Notice how it comes back, sometimes bigger. Then, next time, gives a bit more. And a bit bigger next time.

Then ask your people now that you’ve rebuild a trust relationship what they would like from you first.

And then give it to them.

Then see.

Enjoy.

 

What Steve Jobs can teach us in order to really appreciate systems?

Here is a very nice article from The Personal Excellence Blog. I will just recall the 11 points made over there:

  1. Life is what you make it out to be
  2. Dream big – very big
  3. The greatest things started somewhere
  4. Certifications don’t matter
  5. Live every day like it is your last
  6. Stop listening to what others say
  7. Do not underestimate the impact you can have on the world
  8. Failure only happens when you deem it to be so
  9. Do what you love
  10. Have faith – Never lose hope
  11. Outdo yourself – Over, and over again

Isn’t this a near perfect mix of Appreciative Inquiry and Solution Focus?

I’ve read elsewhere that you need to always think big because lower and mid-levels are already crowded. There’s still room available at the most higher levels: it might be easier to play big than to make room for yourself in mediocrity.

Let me rewrite the list by adding the powerful concepts at play underneath:

  1. Life is what you make it out to be – constructivism, appreciative inquiry
  2. Dream big – very big – constructivismappreciative inquiry
  3. The greatest things started somewhere – solution focus (smallest next action)
  4. Certifications don’t matter – strengths
  5. Live every day like it is your last – Buddha also said: and learn as if you would never die
  6. Stop listening to what others say – be active in constructivism, don’t let others construct you!
  7. Do not underestimate the impact you can have on the world – constructivism again: your questions are fateful, appreciative inquiry as well
  8. Failure only happens when you deem it to be so – constructivism!
  9. Do what you love – what else? Solution focus also
  10. Have faith – Never lose hope – constructivism though indirectly: when you want something strong enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen (recalled from memory, Paulo Coelho)
  11. Outdo yourself – Over, and over again – constructivism as well: think big and it’ll happen to you because you’ll construct the world accordingly.

Thanks Celes for writing this excellent article!

 

Positive #GROW #coaching model? (using #solutionfocus and #appreciativeinquiry)

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” — Henri Ford

Reading some background information on the GROW coaching model, it appeared to me that it could easily be transformed into a positive change model.

GROW originally stands for:

It’s indeed a very simple and effective coaching model to be used. Yet, I feel that it can be enhanced by focusing more on the positive side and what works already for the coachee in order to bring more energy to fuel the change. Here are my thoughts on how to do it below. Read more »

The magic of social constructivism (#appreciativeinquiry #solutionfocus)

I have 1 hour of commute time each morning and each evening between home and work. I invest that time in reading. Which means, at 2 hours on my hands every work day, that I read a lot!

So, reading this morning about Solution Focus, it reminded me about something I’ve read elsewhere about social constructionism and how appreciative inquiry helps you change your own world.

In fact, you can reverse the path of time and have the future influence your present.

In AI terms we say that we move in the direction of what we repeatedly ask questions about. When we build a clear and detailed vision of the future, it becomes so powerful that it influences our present and allows us to move into the direction of that (new) future. The more positive is the vision, the more forceful is the move.

Now, when combining this with Solution Focus that helps people see bits and pieces of the future already occurring now or even having occurred in the past, I can safely update the preceding quote and say that:

The future can change the past.

How is that? Well, the future we can know only in our mind. And, without any further consideration, it influences your choices in the present moving you into that direction of that future you have in mind (AI stance).

But with deliberate action, imagining a preferred future can help shed a new light on your past by  seeing how it already occurred (at least partially). Indeed, your past don’t really change, but the way you see it from now changes, which is all that counts and which will bear new consequences on your future to come.

By thus noticing that that preferred future of yours has already started to realize itself in your past, you get a further boost of energy and confidence to choose your present and follow a new path to that very future.

This is the magical power of the mind and the constructionism stance toward life.

Further, that constructionism magic is fueled by human energy that appears to behave like radioactive matter: the more you bring together, the further more energy is created in a chain reaction. It’s not just additive, it’s exponential! So is, in my mind, the power of social constructionism.

(Of course, there’s a dark side to that magic through demeaning words and behaviors: these can bring power and results in the short-term, but is self-destructive in the longer term). Positive social construction is powerful now and later.

What’s more, you don’t need 7 years in Hogwarts to learn that kind of magic! 😉

Strength-based #PDCA (#lean)

Lean is traditionally viewed as being problem-focused. That is, it works on problems to solve in order to improve efficiency. The core of Lean management is Shewart‘s cycle or the infamous Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Deming cycle.

Yet, I posit that Lean is indeed also very strength-based when “done properly” (that is, it’s LEAN not LAME – Lean As Mistakenly Executed). There’s a LinkedIn discussion group on Strength-based Lean Six Sigma which I encourage you to follow if you’re interested in the subject. I hope to write about this as well on this blog. Later.

What I’d like to ramble on today is on what the basis for a strength-based Lean could be. First of all, I must explain the difference between strengths-based and solution-focused:

  • Strength-based is about doing something by focusing on people’s strengths rather than focusing on their deficiencies or their problems. The strengths movement mainly came out of the CSV handbook (check what your strengths are on VIA for free!) though other companies devised their own list of strengths (Gallup or Clifton’s Strengthsfinder for instance).
  • Solution-focus is about identifying behaviors that worked in the past (or work in the present) and use them again. It’s not really about replicating a (technical) solution that worked in the past (though that could be the case. Yet, in Lean, standards are supposed to be your company’s best practices, so there’s no point in looking for solutions elsewhere).

So, what would a strength-based PDCA look like? Rather than giving directions, I’d like to propose some questions for each step that should elicit responses from people based on their strengths. or what worked for them. It’s a blend of Solution focus and Strength-based questions with a bit of Appreciative Inquiry in the beginning.

Plan

  • What works well in this job?
  • What first attracted you to this job?
  • What makes you “tick” about it?
  • Apart from this job, what do you love to do?
  • What do you think you are good at?
  • What would your friends and co-workers say about what you’re good at?
  • What are your wildest dreams for this job?
  • What three wishes do you have for this job?

Do

  • What are you willing to do about this job?
  • What behaviors of yours have you seen successful in helping changing something you care of?
  • How are you going to approach what you want to do about this job?
  • What needs to be true (preliminary steps) for your wildest dreams for this job to come true?
  • What are the next physical concrete action that you need to do to advance on these preliminary steps?

Check

  • Where are you on your path to achieve your plans?
  • What worked? How did you notice?
  • What have you done that made it work?
  • How are you going to continue measure progress?
  • What next?

Act

  • What have you learned from what worked?
  • What have you learned from what you did that made it work?
  • How are you going to use that again with what’s left do to?
  • What do you know now that you couldn’t before taking action? What might be further on the road?
  • What new opportunities does it bring for your plans for the future? How are you going to improve your plans, then?

There’s so much to say about strength-based Lean and how you really can put the “respect for people” first in your Lean management so that your work experience skyrockets…

Relating Motivational Interviewing, Stages of #Change and #Gestalt

During my recent readings, I stumbled (again) upon information on Gestalt Therapy, which I am not familiar with. Reading further a bit, it occurred to me that it’s mainly about patients needing to first become what they are in order to become what they want, later (I bookmarked some articles, including one that make the link between AI and Gestalt on my delicious tags for Gestalt).

And so I made the connection with Motivational Interviewing that itself is built on the Stages of Change model. MI does not force clients into change, but rather:

  • take them where they are and
  • help them understand the pros and cons of where they are

Only when people move to Contemplating change are they helped building an intrinsic motivation for the change.

Some recent discussions on Appreciative Inquiry forums also mentioned cases where AI practitioners had to deal with negative feelings first before moving on to positive. I see a form of Gestalt practice in this where it helps people recollect who they are now (including negative aspects) before recollecting their best selves and building on them. Also, it’s a way of acknowledging the fact that the system is locked in a deficit-based way of thinking and that it obviously obsesses it to the point of needing to explicit it and dig it out. A form of second level of acknowledgment of the need for positivity (first is stop being into problems, second is stop thinking about finding problems to grow).

I’m writing this blog entry to try to articulate how these fit together. It seems to me that, with respect to change, a change agent or change practitioner would be better to:

  • help the system acknowledge where it stands now, both on the problematic/deficit side and on the life-giving side (what it is when it is at its best). Also, acknowledging the system’s need to be always deficit-based without ever considering the strengths may further help build that gestalt image of itself (if gestalt experts are reading this, I’d be grateful for their comments!)
  • only after when that here and now recollection has been done should the work with AI be allowed to continue (make meaning of the strengths, Dream, Design and Destiny)
  • all of this could be done with the help of the MI techniques that take the system where it is without forcing him through stages of change to which it might not be ready to go to.

I, myself, through (limited) AI experience, sensed some form of resistance in people I facilitated to move to a strength-based approach (I’m in a highly problem-solving skilled environment, and so not dealing with problems… is problematic!). I’m also wondering whether or not I may have created this myself in expecting it from the people I facilitated (social construction, again!) Hence the need to always listen, listen and listen to the system and always take it where it stands, nor where I would like it to be…

Thoughts still wandering…

Considering #AppreciativeInquiry to lead #change in your organization? Have TWO #mindmap summaries at hands reach! (@biggerplate)

Ok I think the title’s saying it all.

The first map is a summary of the 5D process.

For a more detailed explanation of what AI is, you might then have a look at the mindmap I did of the excellent book “The Power of Appreciative Inquiry” by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom (not replacing the book of course!)

 

Some thoughts about what #positive #lean could be by mixing #AppreciativeInquiry and #SolutionFocus

I’ve been thinking lately of what some less deficit-based or more positive-based Lean could be. I know three kind of positive approaches:

  • Appreciative Inquiry, more geared toward identifying what gives life to people, what interests them;
  • Solution Focus, which tries to identify what works or has worked and do more of it;
  • Positive Deviance, which allow a group to identify people (the positive deviant) that achieve a definite purpose in the same condition as others who do not.

What I find interesting in these approaches is that I find them far more powerful when it comes to motivating people to change. Because they appeal to what people really want or like to do. Surely enough, epople do want to solve problems, but only to the extent that it allows them to move toward something that they feel interested in, something that serves them in one way or the other.

Read more »

#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)?

 

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