White Paper Report
Using Appreciative Inquiry Generic Organizational Questionnaire with Non-Profits in Oswego, IL
This report is based on the consulting project with a non-profit in Il. The consultant used the method of Appreciative Inquiry Interview to gather information from the client system to help them develop a strategic framework for their organization. The findings unraveled four presenting issues that were discussed with the client system in part of their framework and future thinking. The consulting project was deemed a success after the evaluation period and further recommendations have been given to the client system for future projects and follow up.
*This is an example of a report that would be submitted to the client to provide further evaluation. In this instance, the consultant would evaluate the different areas of the organization and help them to continue to define their strategic framework for marketing, financial, operational etc. Additional work has been completed with this organization but does not appear in this report.
Introduction to the Organization
The organization that this project was based on is a non-profit in IL. This non-profit 501 c (3) organization is located in the far western suburb of Chicago IL. They currently serve Oswego, Montgomery, and surrounding Kendall and Kane Counties.
The leadership team and Board of Directors (referred to as client in this report) of the non-profit consist of 9 members, from Founder, Director, to Secretary and Treasurer. In addition to the Board of Directors, utilize numerous volunteer staff and volunteer organizations that help with programs, program development, training, and community service and involvement. Many of the programs that the non-profits provide include, support groups for adults with children with disabilities, sibling workshops, book clubs, playgroups, annual holiday parties, and high school prom. Furthermore, non-profit raises awareness for those with disabilities by educating the public and providing fund raising opportunities in the community
The consultant contacted the non-profit and asked them if they would be interested in a free management consulting program. The consultant spoke with the Founder and Executive Director of non-profit about this opportunity. The consultant and the director met and discussed the consulting process, the expectations, and the duration of the process. The reason this consultant selected this organization is because of the services offered and the support that they bring to our community. The consultant discussed the Process Consulting, Action Research, and Appreciative Inquiry methods of consulting and was delighted to hear that non-profit would be honored to have this project take place in their organization. The Director was excited about the Appreciative Inquiry methodology due to the positive nature of the model. In addition, there was discussion about what the client wanted out of this experience. For example, strategic framework was identified by the client as a course of direction that included potential programs for their clients in career development and workforce development and growth.
Informal Data Collection
The consultant used the Appreciative Inquiry Generic question for his source of questions to the clients. The interview and date collection process was scheduled out over a two week period from 4/21/2015 through 5/2/2015 in which the consultant set aside a few hours per week to work with the client on the interviews face to face either via Skype, phone, or at the non-profit campus in Oswego IL. The interviews are planned to take 45 to 60 minutes, depending on details and questions, to complete and will be transcribed by the consultant at his office. Once the information is collected, transcribed, and analyzed the consultant will work the Director in a collaborative measure to evaluate and look for trends and strategies. The information will be coded as to protect the identity of participates. It is important that the consultant understands the role of the project, according to Block (2011). In addition to understanding the role of the project and data it is important for the consultant to understand the client and look at the whole system and not just a part. For example, in this consulting project, it could have been easy to just interview the founder of the organization and work with her one on one. This would have met the requirements of the project. What the consultant required was to meet with the whole active client system and understand all the parts of the organization. Furthermore, the consultant needs to remain partial and separate from the organization as not to lead any decision making with loaded questions. For example, if the consultant feels that a certain task needs to be completed but the client system is not offering this up as a solution, the consultant can change the questions so that the questions lead the client to that particular conclusion. As Block (2011) put it, we need to come into the consulting appointment with a clear mind and clear head and without any prejudgments or hidden agendas.
In the early stages of the consulting process, the consultant had many ideas as what to do to help the client. This was due to the excitement of the process and the willingness to get started. As stated prior, the consultant needs to have a clear mind and no bias toward any decisions or solutions. The consultant is not the problem solver but more of a guide through the process of discovery for the client. In addition, for the consultant, understanding self as an instrument is one of the keys to working in consulting according to Judge (2001), Hanson (2000) who explored self and the social constructivism of consulting. The consult must enter the process with a blank mind and have no pre-diagnosis of what can make an organization better. Every organization is its own separate organization and there is never a right size fits all solution. Furthermore, the consultant must understand, according to Flood (2010) that an organization, no matter how big or small, is a system and a lump sum of its past, present, and future. In working with the client system during the entry process, strategic framework was a common theme that was brought up by the Director and Founder. Based on that information, as data is gathered, trends will appear and once the data has been transcribed, a review will take place and be presented to Director and Founder to work in collaboration for next action with the consultant.
According to Block (2011) the key question that the consultant must be asking themselves is who is the client? In this case, I met with the decision maker, and I let her know that I valued their service in the community and was honored to be working with non-profit on this project. In speaking with the Director and Founder, I acknowledged the fact that this would be a straight forward consulting experience and asked her whether or not she has ever participated in this type of project. The fact of the matter was that she has worked with grant consultants in the past but never with management consultants. We spoke about what she saw as opportunities but I expressed to her that though this might be what she wants, once we collect the data, we can evaluate to see if that is what is needed. The client understood and did not have any further questions. I advised the client that would be gathering information from her Board of Directors through the Appreciative Inquiry Generic Questionnaire. Once that information was gathered, the consultant and the client would sit together and synthesis the information. Again, I advised the client of the scope of the project and let her know that I would follow up with her in a few days to think about the offer to her organization. Within an hour, the consultant received a call back with approval to move forward with the project from the Founder and Director.
The consultant met with the client again and went over the Letter of Intent and went over the proposal of service with the client. The consultant made sure to touch base on the Human Subject Protection within the proposal as well as the cycles of research and expectations of the process.
The life-blood of any research study is the data that is collected. Without the data collection, the consultant would have no information to base their solution on. In this section, ways of data collection for this study will be discussed along with the consultant’s initial analysis, why the approach was utilized, and the presenting problem along with any other concerns that might be discovered during the process.
In what ways has the data been collected?
The methodology that was used for this study was Appreciative Inquiry (AI). According to Cooperrider, Whitney, and Stavros (2005) AI is a philosophy and process of finding the best in people and in a situation. This can be a particularly challenging exercise for the consultant and the organization as this type of method is a culture shift and could cause disruptions among staff. At the same time, AI begins an adventure into the positive revolution of change management and consulting as long as there is buy-in with the client system. In this case, the consultant worked with the non-profit and the buy-in was presented and accepted during the initial meeting.
The data collection process consisted of using the Appreciative Inquiry Generic Questionnaire and Interview guide for Organizations. This questionnaire consisted of six questions that would be asked to the client system with the second question consisting of multiple sub questions. These questions include addressed best experiences, values, core values, and three wishes. Questions taken from Voyle and Voyle Consulting and can be found at http://www.clergyleadership.com/appreciative-inquiry-resources/AI-generic-ques-org.pdf
- Best Experience: Tell me about the best times that you have had with your organization. Looking at your entire experience, recall a time when you felt most alive, most involved, or most excited about your involvement. What made it an exciting experience? Who was involved? Describe the event in detail.
- Values: What are the things you value deeply: specifically, the things you value about yourself, your work, and your organization: (i) Yourself: Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself- for example, as a human being, or as friend, a parent, a citizen and so on? (ii) Your Work: When you feel best about work at your organization, what do you value about it? (iii) Your Organization: What is it about your organization that you value? What is the single most important thing that your organization has contributed to your life?
- Core Value: What do you think is the core value of your organization? What is it that, if it did not exist, would make your organization totally different than it currently is?
- Three Wishes: If you had three wishes for your organization, what would they be?
The consultant set up times to work with the client system to go over these questions. Interviews were either conducted over the phone and in the evening or face to face in the evening. Two of the interviews were face to face while four were conducted over the phone. This was a total of six out of the eight invited board members for a 75% participation rate. The consultant tried to respect the time of the client system but also did not want to seem rushed or right to the point. Several rapport building questions were asked like, what is your current role at the non-profit and for how long? In addition, sports or other activities were mentioned and expanded on to build the comfort factor using the F.O.R.M. method of family, occupation, recreation, and message.
Below are the results from the qualitative interview results from the study. For the protection of the participants, a code has been assigned to the answers. These codes range from DZ1-DZ6. The consultant did not deviate off the questionaries’ and did not probe with open-ended questions in order to keep the results authentic and non-directed.
*The results listed below are transcribed in short hand.
Question 1- Best Experiences
DZ1- 5K- The ability to interact with the kids and to see who is benefiting from this race. The ability to interact in a meaningful way. The fun part was being able to work with their son to do marketing and get volunteers. It was impactful and had a positive financial gain.
DZ2-5K and Harvest Fest. Enjoys finding fund raising and presenting to the communities. The 5K had over 60 volunteers and it was exciting and energizing, the Oswego Cheerleaders showed up, great building momentum
DZ3- The second Christmas party that was put on- an 18 year old in a wheelchair was able to sit on Santas Lap for the first time. This was awesome and the board members were able to enjoy the party as the students did most of the work at Aurora University. The joy in this event is that it helps the most people and includes everyone in the family.
DZ4. Event- 5-K . This was a lot of work but very rewarding, volunteered with the family and everyone was able to work together toward a common cause and party afterwards. There is a sense of feeling proud of the organization,
DZ5-5K Big event- family was able to work together and help out. Excited about the great showing.
DZ6- 5K (and prom)- huge success- enjoy hearing the good that this event does. There is a great vibe in helping others and making connections, seeing the excitement, clients where involved, volunteers excited
Question 2- Values….Value about yourself
DZ1- relationship with faith, ability to give back and time and experiences
DZ2- professionalism and experience- seen a lot in the business work, likes to see things different, gives back- likes non-profit is 100% volunteer
DZ3- integrity and doing the right things
DZ4- value ability to be dependable, accountable, empathetic. Understands different situations, see the good in organizations. Likes to have fun and make things fun
DZ5- quality of work
DZ6- how must is given to others, big heart, passionate about what they do and about helping people.
- Values- Values in Work
DZ1- concept of helping, working with people that need assistance, mission focused and helping children
DZ2- Bringing on sponsorships expand the influence in the community- expand the rolls and help Rebecca out. Continue to find opportunities to help and grow
DZ3- everyone is welcome, everyone gets accepts. They can be who they want to be, help out to see how to interact, not just behaviors and special needs- People do not judge during behaviors.
DZ4- value help to reduce the stress on the Founder and Director and feeling rewarded. Being able to help those be happy.
DZ5- when the work is done
DZ6- pride in everything she does, proud of volunteers, helping make lives better, making a difference
Values- Values Your Organization
DZ1- Having a son with special needs and being able to interact with their son
DZ2- What they do for children in need, socialize, grow, get friends, how to drive the mission
DZ3- Helping with son being accepted and spreading awareness- PEOPLE FIRST
DZ4- the people that they have come to know and diversity- being able to learn stories and what they can do to make it easier on the clients
DZ5- their children are a part of something, friends from working at the non-profit
DZ6- having organization open eyes and be a more accepting individual. The people that they have met so many great families.
DZ1- relable resource a safe haven- relational and rapport with people that has done this before.
DZ2- Compassionate about making a difference- without compassion would a just a shell- needs to be true to themselves
DZ3- willing to be accepting- open minded. It is not about being selective, it is about everyone
DZ4- willing to help no matter what the need is- open mindedness
DZ5- open mindedness- is a place for everyone
DZ6- non-judgmental- all inclusive for everyone
DZ1- 1. Identify Target Market (10 mile Radius) align mission
- More Financial Stability
- Get help for Founder and Director- Delegate
- More structure- framework
DZ2- 1. Grants and sponsorships for year-end funding
- Growth to help more children
- Continue to expand into independent job services
DZ3- 1. Paid for building
- Paid Staff
- Several Locations throughout US
DZ4- 1. Blank check
- Larger Facility
- Paid staff to help role out more programs
DZ5- 1. More volunteers
- More financial support
- Bigger Facility
DZ 6- 1. Bigger space/center
- More organization within the BOD and strategic planning
- Publicity- looking at target markets- schools? Supervisors?
Why was this approach selected?
There were numerous reasons why the consultant selected this approach. These reasons stem from a general understanding of the methodology too this model of AI being the right fit. The main reason is that the consultant and the client system agreed to use this method to collect data and it was the best for this given situation. During the initial meeting with the client system, a description of the methods was presented and once AI was described as a positive model of looking for the best in all organizations, it was immediately declared by the client that this would be the process. In addition, the consultants wanted to get a baseline for the organization and provide positive stories and examples to help organization grow. The other options for selection were Action Research and McKinley 7S model and due to what the client system hoped to accomplish and the time constraints on the consultant, AI was the overall best option. In addition, this date collection method can be easily duplicated by the client system and if needed can be used for additional interviews with the external environment by using the same questionnaire or by developing their own questionnaire based on the positive framework.
What is the presenting problem?
Upon speaking with the client system, the consultant was told that the organization lacked a solid strategic framework for the future. Though there was discussion on what kind of events to do during the fiscal year and who would run these events, nothing was set in stone and there was no strategy for the next five years. In fact, the organization just instituted a budget for spending and tracking in the last quarter. Working with the client system, I was able to discuss many concerns and goals for the future of the organization. These issues consisted of funding, target marketing, additional programs, and larger facilities. Based on these four presenting issues, a solution to these concerns could really drive the organization to the next level in marketing, growth and client satisfaction. In working with the client system, this consultant will provide a recommendation that the client system create task forces for these particular areas of concern. By creating task forces, this creates urgency and accountability within the organization. In addition to creating the task forces, the consultant will urge that each task force develop S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Results-Focused, and Time Bound). This will help create their strategic framework with a forecast of five years down the line. This recommendation would need to be approved and adopted by the client system and by the director. Of course, this is just a jumping off point for the organization as based on the Process Consulting Model and AI method, collaboration with the client system needs to be obtained and utilized. Block (2011) states as number five in Edgar Schein’s Ten Principles as the Essence of Process Consultation, “client owns the problem and the solution”. This means that a recommendation is simply that, a recommendation and not a solution. The client must agree and develop their own solutions to fit their specific needs but as a consultant, we can provide a framework to begin the process. In no way is the consultant an expert or a doctor in the field and according to Rockwood (1993) the consultant must work with the client system to fully understand the presenting problem and engage with the client system in a joint effort in problem-solving.
Facilitation of the Reflection Phase
During the facilitation phase, the consultant worked hand and hand with the Director to go over the findings in the data. What was discovered during the information gathering process was that there was not a platform for the Board members to speak out and give their opinions without the risk of hurting feelings or upsetting other members if they disagreed. This caused some hostility and fear in the direction of the organization. Most of the Board acknowledged the work load that Director and Founder had on her plate and they wished they could do more. When asked what they could do, only suggestions about what others could do surfaced. In addition, there was some great ideas presented that have been passed over due to lack of man power or willingness to do the work since all the Board members are volunteers and work and have families outside the responsibilities of non-profit. By gathering this information and presenting this data, the hope is that a door will open for communication in a professional manner where organizational growth can be achieved.
Based on the findings and looking at the four presenting issues as discussed prior, funding, target marketing, additional programs, and larger facilities the consultant will work with the director to develop a strategic framework and a five year plan using S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Appendix D). The consultant will give the tools to the non-profit to have them collaborate and develop their own goals using this model based on the four presenting factors. By the consultant assisting in the development of the framework and by providing the model of AI interviewing for duplication, the organization has another tool to use as well as a wealth of information to forecast projects and programs in the future. A recommendation would be to follow up every six months with the consultant to take a temperature as to where they currently are in their framework. In addition, a recommendation of another consulting session in a year will help with continued growth and strategic framework and targeting of goals.
Since the organization will have the template and framework for building out these plans, the Director and the consultant will need to meet with the Board of Directors to go over the findings and the plans for future growth based on the four presenting issues. It will be up to the client system to fully implement any of these recommendations as they see fit based on the recommendations above. These recommendations are not set in stone and can be adjusted accordingly or even re-aligned and built upon to help with the growth of the organization. With this new framework, a new sense of collaboration and teamwork that based on positive inquiry and strength-based modelling will help the organization grow for the next five plus years.
Taking a step back and looking that is process is an extremely valuable tool not only for the client system but also for the consultant. Within this project, the consultant feel that a lot of great information was found out that could impact the growth of the organization. Looking back on the collection of data, the approach was adapted to the needs of the organization and went from setting up appointments at the organization to late evening calls with the Board members. The facilitation of the data with the client system went over well as well as the handing over of the tools to use with the client system to assist in the future growth of organization. The data collection and the evaluation moved at a faster speed which the consultant noticed kept the client system engaged. The facilitation stage was enjoyed by Director and served as an eye opening experience to possibilities not before mentioned or thought of.
In ending the project, the consultant made sure that the client system and Director did not have any further questions. Explained in detail next steps, provided the tools necessary to complete those next steps and offered recommendations for follow up out of the scope of this original project. The project concluded on a positive note, as was the intention, since the AI model of positive thought was used.
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Cheung-Judge, M. Y. (2012). The self as an instrument. Challenges and Practical Suggestions, 33, 42.
Cooperrider, D. Whitney, D. Stavros, J. (2005) Appreciative Inquiry Handbook. Berrett-Koehler Publishing, Inc. San Francisco, CA
Flood, R. L. (2010). The relationship of ‘systems thinking’ to action research. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 23(4), 269-284. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11213-010-9169-1
Hanson, P. G. (2000). The self as an instrument for change. Organization Development Journal, 18(1), 95-105. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/198028035?accountid=144789
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Voyle and Voyle Consulting, (2015). Appreciative Interview Guide for Organizations. Retrieved from http://www.clergyleadership.com/appreciative-inquiry-resources/AI-generic-ques-org.pdf