Appreciative Inquiry for teambuilding

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Appreciative Inquiry (AI) makes an excellent format for teambuilding. It can be very rewarding for a team to work through the 4-D cycle, each stage building on the one before. A day (or slightly less than a day) gives enough time to really go into some depth, reaffirm bonds within the team, and build morale and confidence.

For the day to run smoothly it’s important to choose carefully the affirmative topic for the inquiry. Often some variation of “How do we work together more effectively?” will work well.

In the Discovery stage, having team members interview each other to unearth stories of when they have experienced or participated in exceptionally good examples of the topic can help to remind interviewees of their own worth, and that there are times – often forgotten in the hurly-burly of day-to-day work – when the team can work exceptionally well together. The interviewers often also feel inspired as they hear stories that resonate with their own experience and values.

To get the maximum value from the Discovery stage, have people who don’t normally work closely together interview each other. Interviewing across different responsibilities or levels of management can build understanding and appreciation of the contribution and viewpoints of people in different roles.

meht4In the Dream stage, team members co-construct a vision of their desired future as a team. This can be a opportunity for people to loosen up and have fun as they create a presentation of their vision using words, collage, or even on occasion poetry, ‘living sculpture’, or song.

For the Design stage we now favour taking specific aspects of the Dream – whichever elements the team feels most motivated to work on – and letting the team use adapted fishbone diagrams and ‘swimming lanes’ to identify tasks, structures and relationships that need to be in place to translate into an action plan.

Finally, for the Delivery stage team members can make requests, offer to help other team members with their needs, and make commitments to take specific actions or take responsibility for ensuring that something happens.

These photos come from a recent teambuilding day we facilitated for the Occuptional Health team at Mid-Essex Hospital Trust. Denise Mortimer, a project manager at the Trust who commissioned us, wrote the day up for the Trust’s internal magazine:

On 16th September the Occupational Health Department embarked on a team building event with inspiring results! The team were introduced to ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ which is a process that works by acknowledging and building on what is good and what works well, instead of focusing on the negative.  Often we focus on what our problems are and as a result we tend to magnify those problems, which only contribute to a downward spiral of feeling helpless and hopeless.  With Appreciative Inquiry we get to reconnect with what we love about work and when we are at our best, resulting in people feeling inspired to take action and creating more positivity in the workplace.

By the end of the session the group were left feeling inspired with realistic actions that were genuinely created and owned by them. With a lot of laughter and a lot of no-nonsense talk about what needs to happen, the group now have to build on the momentum of the day and they certainly seemed ready to!

We were pleased to help Denise, a graduate of our Practical Appreciative Inquiry facilitator training, to co-facilitate the day. She is now being asked to run other Appreciative Inquiry events within the NHS.


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  1. Pingback: Coaching Leaders - Emotional Intelligence, NLP, Appreciative Inquiry and Coaching Skills for leaders

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