by Dr. Mary Jo Greil

Information Technology leaders are best able to be effective when they can facilitate productive organizational change through the use of technology.  But it should not be surprising that many IT leaders say that the most difficult part of facilitating effective organizational change through the use of technology is in dealing with “people issues.” Indeed, the typical problem-solving approach can serve as a stimulus for resistance.  The truth is that how one facilitates change does affect both the process and the results.  To continually use the same approach and yet expect remarkably different results can only be called “insanity.”

Why do leaders continue to use the same conventional methodologies to facilitate organizational change?   Often, it’s because they know of no other option.  However, the participants at this year’s DISC 2004 Conference were presented with another option—a deceptively simple approach called Appreciative Inquiry that can produce noteworthy, sustainable results.

The Appreciative Inquiry process was developed in the early 1980s by David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivatva, and others who were involved with organization development research through the Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Based on the solid results its use has achieved throughout the world, Appreciative Inquiry has gained popularity as a preferred alternative to the conventional change management approach.  In fact, a book on thesubject,subject, Appreciative Inquiry in the Catholic Church, received a publication award earlier this year, shortly after its first printing. One of the examples it offers is that of Catholic Relief Services, which found that appreciative inquiry works quickly in all cultures, reduces resistance, and increases motivation. (1)

During a 90-minute presentation at the Williamsburg Conference, the senior information technology leaders who attended were shown how they can readily start using AI by asking questions that are designed to “strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.” (2)

If you want to experience the first phase of AI for yourself and tap into the strength that already exists within your staff, ask them these questions and see what you can learn from their responses:

  • Tell me about a time when a group you worked with was highly successful in achieving its goals.   What did that look like?  What were the conditions that supported that success?  How did people behave when what they were working on was really working?  What was your role?
  • Imagine a current issue/work group in need of motivation for improvement.  What are some ways that you could stimulate and integrate the above behaviors that we just identified?

For more extensive information about Appreciative Inquiry, log on to http://appreciativeinquiry.cwru.edu, an excellent, continually updated site managed by Case Western Reserve University; or research Appreciative Inquiry using an Internet search engine for other sites on the subject.

1.    Susan Star Paddock, Appreciative Inquiry in the Catholic Church, Thin Book Publishing Company, 2003.

2.    David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, “A Positive Revolution in Change:  Appreciative Inquiry,” Corporation for Positive Change, 1999.

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