Hello readers, we are in the fifth (and last) activity of this phase and today is the time to prepare a team meeting activity: The Collaborative Approach of Appreciative Inquiry.
Is this the first article you read of this series? Don’t worry; you can check the full series here.
Here, I will repeat a few sentences to keep consistency with the other blog posts and to explain to new followers where this series started (those of you who have been reading this series from the beginning, could skip these sentences and go directly to the activity text): Keep in mind that it works for me; however, it does not mean that it will work for you. It is something that I would like you taking your time to evaluate and validate if you can use “as is” or maybe you could adapt it to your real context. As I said from the beginning, my intentions are not to create the new step-by-step “fix-all-in-one-shot” guide. I want to share what works for me and that you are able to validate or adapt it to your real situation.
Remember that in this process and subsequent activities, we are working with humans, so it is impossible for you to have the exact same situation as mine, because there are no 2 people or teams that are equal. Tweak it and adapt it at your discretion and pleasure.
The “ground floor” phase: How-To
Here is a small refresher of this phase:
What should happen here: Discussions and interactions, common vocabulary, and understanding should be the most important here.
Format: In groups.
Output: “What do you want to become in X years?” If you are working at the team level, X could be 1 or 2 years. At the organization level, you should use something between 10 and 20 years. Sometimes, people don’t want to think more than 5 years ahead and that is all right.
All the information about this phase is in this post, today, I will address the “how-to”. To do that, I will share the first activity with you for this phase.
Activity V: The Collaborative Approach of Appreciative Inquiry
Introduction and More…
In this opportunity, the activity/meeting will be focused on a very well-known coaching technique called “Appreciative Inquiry” and storytelling techniques. It is natural for humans to support what they create; so we will let people create what they have to support. People always feel good when they are acknowledged for what they did or accomplished and when they are applauded for their contribution. When that happens you and I are more inclined to do more of the same with an increased sense of satisfaction. Sometimes, it is hard to stop doing what you are doing, as we all do our best work and are most productive when we are energized and engaged by the activity. If we are energized rather than depleted, it is likely that we are working with our talents or potential strengths and that the activity engages us – we are absorbed in it.
If we are able to develop a conscious awareness of how frequently we are using our strengths on a daily basis; we will begin to appreciate what contributes to our good performance, that is, our own high level of productivity and engagement. I chose this activity to do some work on that.
First part: Discover the strengths of the team
Group Interview (30-50 minutes): In groups of 2 or 3 people (if you have more than a manager/director/VP in the group, you need to put them in different groups):
1- Remember a time when you, on your own or on a team, achieved a goal or completed a project and the results were positively acknowledged, inspiring you to do even better next time.
- Tell your story.
- Describe the situation.
- What were you doing?
- What was it about and who was involved?
- What thoughts and feelings did you have?
2- What strengths – talents or skills – did you bring to the situation?
- What was specifically acknowledged and how?
- If it was a team effort, what strengths did you observe in others?
- What did you value about others’ strengths?
- What did you value about the organization?
Allow around 10 min per story in each group. At the end of this activity, each group should have a lot of good stories to remember, should understand what people really care about (this part is priceless for managers), and should have a good list of group strengths. You should document each strength on this list with the name of the owner of that strength (one strength per post-it note). If it is a team strength, you need to record the team as the owner. Keep the post-it notes aside for the next part; we will come back to this in the last part.
Second part: Sharing goals
Now is the moment where everyone shares their goals for the next period (normally 12 months). Managers/Directors/VP and teams need to share goals: product goals, organization goals, personal goals, and team goals. Add each goal to one post-it note and add the name if it is a personal goal and identify if it is a team/organization/product goal. Each person needs to explain the goal, and why they have added this as a goal. What are the benefits and what is the impact on the organization/product?
At this point, you should have a wall or whiteboard with a bunch of post-it notes. Now everyone, let’s ask questions about each goal. They need to understand them. Motivate the team to “relate” to the goals. For example, if a product goal is to “increase the number of clients using our product”, check to see if some personal goals are associated with that, or maybe, some new skill that someone (or the team) can help with this product goal. Try to do the same between the organization and product goals. If goals are in 2 different senses, this is the moment to talk about it. Don’t miss this opportunity to align organization-product-personal goals.
At this moment you have a “group of goals” all associated; now, put those goals in the right priority (some goals could be alone, it is ok) and build two lists:
- The Main List
- The Backup List
The idea is to get between 1 and 3 goals for the organization, the product, the team and the individual on the “Main List”. You should finish with around 10-15 items. It is a good number to handle. In the “Backup List”, you leave the remaining goals as a reference (or backup). Maybe in, let’s say, 2 months some goals from the “Main List” are no longer valid; you pick a new one from the “Backup List”. Your main focus for the next period of time (normally 12 months) should be the “Main List”.
The last thing you will ask people in this part is: “Do we need support to get it done”? If yes, please write on the post-it note what kind of support you need.
At the end of this part, you will have a “Main List” of goals (including organization, product, team, and individual goals) with the kind of support the people need to get it done. You also will still have your “Backup List”.
Third part: Let’s put all together
Here, you will focus on the “Main List” and the ‘strengths’ list. Let the full team (including managers) assign their strengths to each goal. Motivate the discussion:
- Do we have all the strengths we need?
- What strengths are we missing?
- How can we get the strength needed?
- How will we get the support needed?
- Do we need help from other teams? Which team? Who will take care of that?
At the end, you will be ready to let the team put everything from the “Main List” on a ‘team board’ (my favorite is a physical board, but it could be an electronic one, especially if the team or team members is remote). On this board, the team, the manager, and the organization can see the progress. You will use this board every time the team meets to talk about goals with managers and/or stakeholders.
The full activity could take around 120 minutes. As a facilitator, you need to pay close attention to organization and product goals among all teams. They have to be organizationally aligned. My recommendation is that you do this activity in the higher levels of the organization first. It will avoid misaligned goals between teams/units.
Don’t forget to allow time for debriefing. The focus should be on the observations of the facilitator in regards to how the group/team approached the process; as well as the patterns that the facilitator noticed regarding the content and team behaviors.
- Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions by Robyn Stratton-Berkessel
- #Workout by Jurgen Appelo (Problem Time workout – page 259)