Evaluation of Appreciative Inquiry Interventions
As a relatively new tool for organization development, action research, training and team building, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has gained popularity worldwide (Messerschmidt, 2008). Whilst much research has addressed the approach and its philosophy, AI still remains an approach with little self-reflection or critique (Grant & Humphries, 2006). It has been suggested that evaluation of past AI interventions is needed to inform managerial action in conducting future interventions and contribute to the literature on AI (Dunlap, 2008). In this thesis, three large-scale AI interventions (between 130 and 320 participants in the summit) were evaluated. Three organizations operating in New Zealand and Australia agreed to participate in this research. Across these three organizations, data were collected through 23 semi-structured interviews of employees who were involved in the AI summit. Evaluation of these interventions was carried out by comparing the findings of the interviews with the intended goals and outcomes for each organization in initially performing an AI summit. In addition, the findings were contrasted with the existing literature on AI and recommendations for future implementations are made. This research shows that the interviewees across the three organizations consistently reflected very positively on the AI summit. They commonly used words like 'fun', 'great', 'amazing', 'exciting', 'energizing', 'motivating' and 'making you feel special' to describe the event. Particularly, the involvement of a diverse group of people (co-workers from different management levels, customers, suppliers, external partners, etc.) in the summit was highly appreciated by the interviewees. While the literature puts a great emphasis on the AI summit and the planning of the event, the findings indicate that the things that happen post the summit are at least as important as the actual summit itself. Two out of three organizations appear to have underestimated the importance of what should happen after the event and ultimately failed in integrating AI into their organizational processes or capturing significant benefits following the AI summit. In contrast, the third organization put a strong emphasis on planning actions that followed the summit and consequently managed to make AI part of their way of operating.