An Exercise in Appreciation

Last fall, I came across a different framework linked to project management called the 5-D Appreciative Inquiry model.

Since that time, I have been extensively practicing it and I like it so I am sharing it here with you today.

The model is somewhat like a SWOT yet it is aimed at emphasising the positive and build on strength which is exactly in-line with the approach I have been taking for years.

The first D is Define.

I have always said, define the problem to start any initiative. This approach suggests flipping the problem into an opportunity. Which I have also prescribed in my approach.

From my experience, this can be hard for some people as you have to be more along the lines of an optimist rather than a pessimist to be able to do this.

For example, instead of asking, "What are the problems with our customer service?" You might ask, "What are the key factors of our best customer service experiences?"

The next D is Discover.

During this phase, the team engages in a process of inquiry to discover and appreciate the positive aspects of the organization.

These are the strengths of the organization or team and helps discover through active engagement, what is working well.

What I also suggest that is not necessarily in the model is after you discover what is working well, ensure you safeguard those elements or processes to ensure you don’t lose them. And even train all and new staff members on these elements.

The third D is Dream.

In the dream phase, participants envision and articulate their aspirations for the future based on the insights gained in the discovery phase.

This involves collectively imagining a desired future state that builds upon the organization's strengths and positive experiences.

Participants are encouraged to think creatively and expansively about what is working well.

In other words, Dream and understand that the dream might not become the reality just yet.

The next D is for Design.

In this phase, participants develop concrete plans and steps to move towards the desired future state identified in the dream phase.

This often involves brainstorming ideas, setting goals, and designing specific actions and initiatives.

The focus is on taking practical actions that leverage the organization's strengths and resources.

The last D is for Deliver.

The final phase involves implementing and sustaining the changes and initiatives developed in the design phase.

This includes identifying who does what, and I personally would move into building out the project at this phase.

For me, this model can replace a SWOT exercise which can often be superficial, and it can also act as a brainstorming session when tackling a problem that can evolve into a project.

I have found that an exercise like this works better when there are multiple people doing the exercise and it does not need to take more than an hour.

That said, for the discover phase, you can go back and survey additional staff or have focus groups. This way, you can capture more of what is working well and factor this into your project plans as well.

Try it. It may be worth your time and enable positivity and truly build on strengths.