Today, we’re going to discuss the first of the four steps in implementing an appreciative inquiry approach to management in your organisation.
David Cooperidge and Suresh Srivastva are the two professors responsible for coining the term, and at its core, it’s a way of enabling positive change in an organisation through identifying positive aspects of your operations and consolidating the way in which you deliver that product or service. According to the Center for Appreciative Inquiry, “consultants around the world are increasingly using an appreciative approach to bring about collaborative and strengths-based change,” in organisations around the world. In founding the Best Practice mantra and mission statement, Cooperidge’s work was at the forefront of our decision making in ensuring our vision was underpinned by a strengths-based approach to organisational management strategies.
At the base of the theory is the mandate for organisations to discover exactly what it is that you’re doing well. This is arguably the simplest step of the four-step journey in implementing appreciative inquiry in your organisation; the remaining steps are made up of dreaming what could be better, designing ways in which you can make those improvements, and implementing a system that can maintain those improved promises.
Let’s not jump ahead, though. Today we’re going to talk about the way in which you can identify the areas that are most important to both your bottom line, and the needs of your customers. On your end, it’s relatively simple to identify which area of the organisation is most important to your sustained success; simply ask each division in your strategic management review session, and make sure you consolidate this area. Give them all the resources they need to ensure the quality of that product or service doesn’t disappoint the implied promises your organisation makes when a customer does business with you.
On the customer end, however, things get a bit trickier. What may be profitable for your organisation might not be something that is important to your customer, so keep this in mind in the discovery phase of incorporating appreciative inquiry in your organisation’s ethos. Getting customer feedback is an essential part of your research and due diligence here; get an intimate understanding of what your customers like about your organisation. Use your feet on the ground – in the form of your sales team – or try to get some feedback from surveys, or via social media. Make sure you provide open-ended questions so your clients can offer up thorough feedback for you to leverage later in the process. If you have a complaints register already implemented, take some time to have a look at the negative feedback you’ve received and you’ll be better able to identify pain-points that might correlate to your most efficient or profitable area.
To ensure this is done effectively, we highly recommend implementing an ISO 9001 Quality Management System in your organisation. The standard is designed to accelerate your business performance, instil a sense of continual improvement and strategic decision-making that improves on the quality of your products and/or services, and helps to guarantee improved customer satisfaction.
Another key part of the process in fleshing-out of the discovery phase of appreciative inquiry requires you to get a clear idea of the market in which your organisation exists. More than likely, you’re already doing this- but doing more research can never be a bad thing. The better you understand your competition, the better your chances are at identifying gaps in what you’re already excelling at; just a little bit of legwork can make a profound difference to an area that is already performing at a high level.