6Appreciative Inquiry

Recently I was invited to help an organization undergoing change. I was asked to come in and work with the front line staff, who were seen as being in need of some support. By the time I got to meet them they were at that difficult point in the change programme where they had put in their applications for a job in the new structure (or alternatively for voluntary redundancy) but didn’t yet know the outcome.

It was agreed that I would run a three-hour session focused on “making sense of the changes.” Attendance would be voluntary. It attracted about eight people the first time it ran, one of whom appeared close to tears when we started the session. It was clear that it was an emotional time for people. After some scene-setting and so on, I structured the session around three questions: “What will be different?” “How will it impact our work?” and “How can I positively affect my own experience and that of those around me?

The initial discussions provoked a lot of expressions of dissatisfaction and blame. It became apparent that the work environment was being experienced as highly negative. As is not uncommon in these situations, the managers were being held to account for a lot of the difficulties staff were suffering. The general story was that the managers “aren’t telling us anything,” and “are too busy,” and “aren’t doing this change well.” There wasn’t a lot of respect evident for their managers in the initial conversations. While I was fielding the ...

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