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Appreciative Inquiry for the Federal Workplace ADR Brown Bag June 3, 2008 Merri L. Hanson, M.A. Peninsula Mediation & ADR [email protected] Welcome and Overview Section 1 Merri L. Hanson, M.A.

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Inquiry for the

Federal Workplace

ADR Brown BagJune 3, 2008

Merri L. Hanson, M.A.

Peninsula Mediation & ADR

[email protected]

Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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Merri L. Hanson, M.A.

  • Merri L. Hanson is Director of Peninsula Mediation & ADR, a full service ADR firm location in Williamsburg, Virginia. Peninsula Mediation & ADR provides a broad range of mediation, facilitation, and ADR training services throughout the United States for federal agencies including the Department of Navy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, NASA, U. S. Air Force, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, and USDA.

  • What Merri likes best about her work:

    “I am the one of the fortunate few who really love their work. Each day is a new opportunity for creativity and growth. I am privileged to have been allowed the opportunity to make a constructive difference in so many lives.”

Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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Most Memorable Appreciative Inquiry Summit:

  • Appreciative Inquiry Summit for the U. S. Air Force (Langley Air Force Base, Personnel Management)

  • Two days of capacity building aboard the

    105 ‘ three-masted traditional

    Schooner Alliance

Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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  • Welcome and Overview

  • Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry

  • Appreciative Inquiry: Principles and Practices

  • Questions?

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    • Recognize the quality, significance or magnitude of

    • To be fully aware of or sensitive to

    • To raise in value or price


    • The process of gathering information for the purpose of learning and changing

    • A close examination in a quest for truth

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Report Card:






Your child just brought this report card home. How does your discussion go?

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Appreciative Exercise:

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Three Wishes:

  • Interviewer #1 and Interviewer #2 pair up and interview one another; 10 minutes each interview using handouts; call in participants work with a partner or work alone through both handouts recording their own answers

  • Debrief Interviewer #1 (then Interviewer #2) in large group about the “Three Wishes” recorded from their interviews

  • Together debrief:

    • Categories/themes of wishes

    • General observations

  • Together compare:

    • Appreciative Approach v. Problem Solving Approach

  • Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Power of the Approach

    • What impact did your assigned interview approach have on your conversation?

    • How did your assigned “frame”—problem solving or appreciative—impact your experience? The experience of the person being interviewed?

    • How did your assigned “frame” effect the “Three Wishes?”

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Problem Solving v. Appreciative Inquiry

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Einstein on Conflict Resolution:

    • Problems cannot be solved by the level of awareness that created them.

    • We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

    • The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

    • No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Provocative Proposition:

    For certain kinds of human and organizational problems it is possible to solve them by focusing on what we want, desire, need, aspire to, etc. without conducting extensive root cause analysis.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI: Historical Roots

    • Action Research (Kurt Lewin; other Org. Dev. researchers)

    • Appreciative Research (Vickers)

    • Social Constructionism (Berger and Luckman; Cooperrider)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI: Description

    • Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a change process about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of that which gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI is a “glass half full” approach to planning for change, rather than a process designed to diagnose and solve problems. AI can be used for groups of virtually any size, from a group of five to a group of thousands.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI: Uses

    • As one way of using Appreciative Inquiry in an organization, a small work-group might use the principles of AI to create a dialog process with members interviewing each other and other members of the organization asking questions to elicit creative and life-giving events experienced in the workplace.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Appreciative Questioning

    • AI is the art and practice of continuously asking questions from an AI perspective - questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to recall and to build on past and current successes. Examples: An AI question on the topic of change would be worded is this manner: 

    • “What are the dynamics at work when the staff is fully engaged in community work?” Not: “How can we get staff to reach out more to the community?”

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Appreciative Questions, Cont.

    • “Under what circumstances does your work give you the most satisfaction?” Not: “What problems do you face in your work?” 

    • “What would this unit look like if it were fully staffed?” Not: “How can we reduce absenteeism?”  

    • “What would this place be like if all treated each other with dignity and respect?” Not: “How can we stop sexual harassment and EEOC complaints?”.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Appreciative Origins

    • Such questions allow the system to continuously rethink what is possible. AI is about freeing ourselves to explore beyond what we already know and understand. AI was created in the 80’s by David Cooperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. It has been used worldwide with thousands of organizations and communities.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI Principles: Principles

    • Whole System

    • Historical and Global

    • Self-Managed Through Dialog

    • Common Ground

    • Narrative Rich Interaction

    • Appreciative Approach to Inquiry

    • Inspired Action on Behalf of Whole

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI Principles:

    • The WHOLE SYSTEM participates – a cross-section of as many interested parties as is practical. That means more diversity and less hierarchy than is usual in a working meeting, and a chance for each person to be heard and to learn other ways of looking at the task at hand. 

    • Future scenarios – for an organization, community or issue – are put into HISTORICAL and GLOBAL perspective. That means thinking globally together before acting locally. This enhances shared understanding and greater commitment to act. It also increases the range of potential actions.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI Principles, Cont.

    • People SELF-MANAGE their work, and use DIALOGUE – not “problem-solving” – as the main tool. That means helping each other do the tasks and taking responsibility for our perceptions and actions. 

    • COMMON GROUND and NARRATIVE RICH INTERACTION rather than “conflict management,” or negotiation as the frame of reference. That means honoring our differences rather than having to reconcile them, and searching for meanings, and direction in stories that honor and connect us to our “history as positive possibility.”

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI Principles, Cont.

    • APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY (AI) – To appreciate means to value – to understand those things of value worth valuing. To inquire means to study, to ask questions, to search. AI is, therefore, a collaborative search to identify and understand the organization’s strengths, its potentials, the greatest opportunities, and people’s hopes for the future.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI Principles, Cont.

    • INSPIRED ACTION ON BEHALF OF THE WHOLE – Because the “whole system” is involved it is easier to make more rapid decisions, and to make commitments to action in a public way – in an open way that everyone can support and help make happen. The movement to action is guided by internal inspiration, shared leadership, and voluntary initiative. People work on what they share a passion about, what they most care about and believe will make the difference. Real change begins with the simple act of people acting on what they care about, in the context of a shared vision that matters.

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    AI: The “4 – D” Cycle


    Opportunity Context for Perspectives on Growth

    Affirmative Topic



    Goals and Action Plans for Personal & Organizational Excellence


    Images and Visions of Growth


    Aspirations for strengthening existing initiatives

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Preliminary Phase: DEFINE

    • Most AI initiatives begin with the creation and definition of a “affirmative TOPIC”

    • Hence, DEFINE, while not one of the “4-D”s is an important preliminary “D”

    • TOPIC is stated in the affirmative and serves as guide for AI summit (meeting)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Appreciative Topics:Examples

    • Examples of appreciative topic definitions:

      • “Igniting Leadership at all Levels; Working Together to Ensure the Earth’s Vitality” (EPA, Office of Research and Development)

      • “Living our Purpose and Principles” (Green Mountain Roasters)

      • “Building Capacity for Social and Economic Development” (World Vision – Tanzania)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Phase I: DISCOVER

    • The DISCOVER phase begins with mixed group or pair interviews in which participants discuss their peak experiences and search together for themes and factors that “give life” to the TOPIC. Typical steps in the DISCOVER phase are:

      • Step 1: “Positive Change Core” Interviews

      • Step 2: Small Groups Meet

      • Step 3: Positive Core Map

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    DISCOVER:Positive Change Core Interviews

    • Typical AI Interview Questions: 

    • Think about a time when you were really engaged in and excited about a new learning experience. Tell a story about that time. What as happening? What made it a great moment in time? What were you doing to contribute to this moment? What were others doing? What were the other dynamics that contributed to that time? 

    • What do you value about yourself as a person? 

    • If you had three wishes about learning for the people in this room what would they be? 

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Positive Change Core Interviews, Cont.

    • The subject matter could be anything: cooperation, race, gender, productivity, best practices, restructurings, redesigns etc.

    • Positive Change Core Interviews are typically organized as a follows:

      • Statement related to the topic

      • Questions designed to guide discussion about the statement

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Positive Change Core Interview Example:

    • Question #1:

      Companies that support a culture of learning continually invest in their most valuable asset – their people.

      • Describe a learning experience that contributed directly to your success and allowed you to perform at a particularly high level.

      • What made this learning experience exceptional?

      • What 2 – 3 things could be done to build a culture of learning at our agency?

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    DISCOVER, Cont.Groups Share Discoveries

    • Interview pairs reconvene into small groups to share highlight stories and search for patterns and “root causes of success.”

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    DISCOVER, Cont.Change Core Map

    • The small groups work individually to synthesize their patterns into a creative metaphor to communicate their concept of the “positive core” of the TOPIC

    • Groups then describe their metaphors to the large group

    • Change Core Maps: ideally captured graphically

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Phase II: DREAM

    • This phase of AI gives participants the opportunity to envision their group’s greatest potential for positive influence and impact in the organization in the PRESENT and the FUTURE

    • Next, pairs of participants identify themes operating that contributed to the peak experience. Themes are the resources, behaviors, emotions feelings of the people at the time of the peak, memorable experience.

    • DREAM themes are then shared within the small group, and then presented to the large group (through skits, works of art, magazine cover stories, etc.)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Phase III: DESIGN

    • At this phase, participants work together to create key themes or “DESIGN statements” that will help the group move towards its dream.

    • Groups write how the organization functions if the themes were operating to the maximum, in the PRESENT.

    • The Facilitator extracts the themes/DESIGN statements and posts them around the room.

    • Participants select a theme/DESIGN statement posted in some part of the room, and create a new group that then writes “Provocative Propositions” (statement of what that element would look like in the desired future).

    • “Provocative Propositions” are posted (or typed into draft form)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Phase IV: DELIVER

    • DELIVER is all about creating an action plan to bring your desired TOPIC into being.

    • The large group reviews the “Provocative Propositions” and votes for agreement (e.g, use voting cards: green = agree; yellow = conditional agreement; red = disagree)

    • Each agreed upon proposition becomes a proposed possible pilot project that will move the group toward it’s desired future

    • Participants move to one or more breakout group/pilot project and draft a purpose statement, short description, and short, mid, and long term actions steps.


    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Typical Project Start-Up

    • Choose the topic (perhaps based upon themes from generic interviews with research questions); state the topic in the AFFIRMATIVE

    • Agree on desired outcomes

    • Agree on how to get there

    • Develop draft interview protocol

    • Practice interviews; develop interview guidelines

    • Plan for collecting and analyzing the data

    • Plan for how the process will drive change

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    When to Use AI

    • When high levels of participation and cooperation are required

    • When change process needs to be accelerated

    • When work requires innovation among diverse groups in high stakes environment

    • When multiple change initiatives need to be synthesized

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    • Tangible Deliverables:

      • Compendium of Best Practices/Stories

      • Visual Displays

      • Customized Appreciative Interview Protocols and Surveys

      • Organizational Design and Action Plan Statement

      • Train-the-Trainer Plans and Meetings

      • Skill Building Activities for Personnel

      • Customized AI Workshop

      • Meeting Design

      • Special Events (e.g. Whole System Meeting)

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    More Deliverables!!

    • Intangible Deliverables:

      • Process Consultation

      • Appreciative Data Analysis

      • Culture Change

      • Organizational Transformation

    Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Criticism of AI:

    • AI is just warm and fuzzy.

      • AI is actually data driven but approaches appreciation

  • AI is a “positive thinking” security blanket.

    • Positive thinking is individual; AI is collectively and continually created

  • AI is wildly imbalanced.

    • Problem solving approaches also search for strengths, but in AI the emphasis is on the desired future rather than the undesired past

  • Peninsula Mediation & ADR

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    Section 4