Well-Formed Outcome and Appreciative Inquiry

“If you want to build a ship, then don’t drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Corporate executives set plans and outcomes for their organisations which are often expressed in numerical form, very briefly, and with little, if any, sensory language. These are the shared goals of the whole organisation and depend on the combined efforts of all employees to achieve them, yet contain little to motivate individual effort. When goals cascade down from the top of an organisation, through divisions, departments, teams and ultimately to individuals, little exists to motivate people to want to achieve them.

And, if things fail to go to plan (and they often do), many are tempted to move into problem solving and fire-fighting. Some organisations engage in these reactive activities so much that they have become the natural way of working.

One problem with problem solving is that you have to think about a problem in order to solve it. So, your attention is on what’s wrong – or what you don’t want – rather than what you do want. Businesses explore their problems thoroughly in order to fix them. They are good at finding solutions. However, today’s solution may just lead to the next set of problems. After all, they are solving yesterday’s problem, not looking forward to anticipating what kind of problems might arise in the future.

Combining ideas from Appreciative Inquiry and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), the Appreciate Approach in Designing Well-formed Outcome directs the focus in one direction, i.e. the positive.

The process of designing a well-formed outcome accesses possibilities and consequences from all angles, using sensory-specific language – you bring the outcome to life immediately, making it real, attractive and inspiring. You know exactly what you are aiming for and how you know when you get there.

The basic idea is then to build – or rebuild – organisations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. It is taking a positive focus on how to increase exceptional performance instead of improving poor skills and practices. Progress does not stop when one problem is solved – it naturally leads on to continuous improvement – Kaizen.