Monday, May 18, 2009

When You Know What You Want Your House To Look Like - Start Building!

We love using Whole System Methods. We are in a learning community of consultants that focuses on how to use these methods well. Part of this includes talking to other people and potential clients who don't know what Whole Systems Methods are. What are they? We have a definition, we have descriptions of methods, etc. Sometimes when we hear how other people are using them, or talk to people who have had less than positive experiences with them, we wonder about using different descriptors. We love Appreciative Inquiry, to me it is like eating ice cream. It is always great. Other people don't always feel that way. We sometimes use the metaphor of designing a home, when talking to people about this method.

The first phase is Discovery. In this phase we look at our existing home and think about what features we really like—features that we’d like to include in the plans for our new home. In the second phase Dream — we start to dream about our ideal home. What would it look like? How many bedrooms would it have? We begin to visualize our dream. In the third phase Design - we have a vision of what we want our home to look like, but we need help to start building it. We bring in an architect to help us design and create a plan. In the fourth phase Destiny, we have our overall plan, and we bring in teams to develop plans for their specific area of work—we have roofers and plumbers and electricians—teams that have individual plans but whose work is a part of the grand, architectural design of our dream home.

One of the things we love about using Appreciative Inquiry and other Whole System Methods, is that you can get things done very quickly that normally take a long time. Harrison Owen has described this as high performance.

In our learning community, we were talking about how sometimes consultants or participants like to stay in the early phases for unnecessarily long periods of time. Maybe because it's enjoyable. I just heard about a group that spent two years in Discovery. We all had a good laugh about that. They certainly discovered a lot! However, because they didn't move on - the inquiry didn't result in any changes or action. When this happens, it can lead to people to think that they don't like the method or that it doesn't work. When really, it is just the way it was used. We know from using it in strategic planning that you can get to action planning quickly, and that this excites the participants! Once you know what you want your house to look like - start building!

Cassandra at

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