The Best Practice Approach: Appreciative Inquiry
Something that has become one of our bedrock principles in the context of organisational management is the appreciative inquiry approach in managing your team and your organisation as a whole. If you missed our first feature on the topic, have a read here, but in essence, appreciative inquiry asks you to focus on the things that you’re doing right in your organisation, and doubling-down on improving them.
It’s not about ignoring the problem areas of your business, it’s about creative a positive feedback loop within your organisation to ensure you maintain the level of quality in the things you’re doing well, which positions your organisation better to problem solve the areas that are underperforming. If you take this into consideration as you’re addressing areas in your organisation that aren’t performing to your projections or expectations, at the very least, taking the appreciative inquiry-approach will ensure no customer of yours feels violated following an interaction with your organisation.
'Picture it this way: rather than fixing the dripping tap while your customers wait outside in the cold, the customer comes first' - Kobi Simmat
I plan on diving into this topic much more in coming pieces, but for now I’ve listed a few of my top tips in terms of implementing an appreciative approach as you look inward at your organisation’s policies and processes. It’s also worth mentioning that working alongside Best Practice allows you to capitalise on the breadth of knowledge our assessors have in this area; like I mentioned earlier, it’s at the core of our approach to organisational management as we help you on your journey to continual improvement.
Start Leveraging the Four Magic Steps
The concept of appreciative inquiry as a whole centres on the belief that every organisation in existence can improve without the need for additional resources, simply by leveraging the power of four simple steps, also known as the four D’s. The model asks organisations to take an inward look at their operations, and consider the following: discovery, or appreciating your operations and how you serve your end customer, dreaming how you can better serve that customer, designing a way in which you can make that dream of serving the customer a reality, and finally, destiny, which is the design and implementation of a set of systems to ensure the sustainability of those improved promises.
To put a lengthy sentence a little shorter: look at what you’re doing well, picture the ideal version of this, think about how you can make that happen, and create a means of sustaining those improved promises.
"The best way to predict the future is to create it," Peter Drucker
It sounds simple because it is. From my personal experience, however, it’s massively under-utilised in the context of business because management styles largely tend to gravitate toward problem areas. This is, of course, absolutely essential, but most of the time it attracts too much time and swallows up too much of the resources in an organisation that would be better served ensuring you continue to deliver on your existing promises to customers.
Something we try to do is start our meetings - be them our weekly or quarterly management review sessions - is to kick them off in the most positive way possible.
Our weekly meetings are first thing on a Monday morning, and this was intentionally designed to inspire staff with an inspiring mission and action plan for the rest of the week. This positive psychology in the workplace will keep your staff better engaged, and allow them to problem solve in a much more effective way. I’ve structured our meetings to start with each member of the team opening with a personal and professional highlight from the previous week, which I’ve found is extremely useful in motivating my team; particularly important on a Monday.
Don’t Drop Everything to Address a Single Issue
From personal experience, I’ve seen management strategies that essentially put the brakes on the entire organisation until one problem area is addressed. Nothing could be more potentially detrimental to your existing clients - that, at that point, may well be completely oblivious to the problem area - if you begin to break the promises you’re expected to deliver upon to fix an issue that might not be related. This is often done because of the fact that time, money and staff members are indeed finite resources, but it’s important to recognise the inherent dangers of dropping everything to fix a problem area. It’s a difficult aspect of problem solving to balance, but before allocating the majority of your resources to fix a problem area, do your due diligence and make assurances that the quality of your product or service won’t suffer in the process.
Picture it this way: rather than fixing the dripping tap while your customers are waiting outside in the cold, the customer comes first; that’s at the core of the appreciative inquiry approach to changing your management style.
Ideally, we want you to get that dripping tap fixed as soon as possible- but not if it’s at the cost of your organisation’s current - and future - clientele. We’ll come back to this metaphor in a future piece on risk-based thinking that can potentially identify a problem with that tap before it becomes visible.
Effective management isn’t about the implementation of just one of these management principles, it’s an amalgamation of hundreds, if not thousands of them- pulling them out as different circumstances raise their head. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work in finding out and implementing these in our own organisation, and it’s at the core of our teachings as we work with your organisation to create a system that sparks continual improvement.