Appreciative Inquiry: how can it be used to support change management?

Developed in the United States at the end of the 1980s, the Appreciative Inquiry (positive exploration) approach is now gaining ground. Unlike traditional SWOT methods, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on the successes and positive elements present in the organisation, which are much more likely to generate enthusiasm and buy-in from teams during a period of change. Opening the dialogue on what works well, and not on the problems, encourages collective commitment and allows a radically different posture to be adopted, which is more conducive to creativity and transformational change.

Four main principles characterise this approach:

Appreciative Inquiry reveals its full potential when used as a change management approach. At the heart of the process, workshops involve all employees, who at the same time become actors of change and constitute a critical mass of favourable employees. The primary objective of these workshops is to highlight what needs to change by focusing on what generates success. The identification of the best success stories and the levers that generate them is carried out during appreciative interviews, which are conducted beforehand, and which then make it possible to highlight the recurring themes and the different visions of the organisation. These elements, the successes and quotes from the interviews, are staged, published, and then discussed duringworkshops aimed at engaging participants in positive change, to build a vision and create an action plan based on the questions: “What works?”, “What are the best practices to develop? The aim is to imagine opportunities for positive change and to build teams of volunteers to develop the projects. The values linked to the exercise are essential to encouraging change: pride, openness and trust.

Appreciative Inquiry produces concrete and measurable results: new tools, new ways of working, productivity gains, reduced absenteeism, but also results that are more complex to grasp: changes in attitudes, better transversal communication, cultural evolution.

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