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“What I truly appreciate about working with Jim is his collaborative and inclusive style and his focus on what’s possible.”

Lisa Coscia, Regional Vice President for the Mid-Atlantic Region, The Mentor Network



“Jim's help we crafted a strategic plan that included the viewpoints of over 1000 people. The end result: a strong and positive vision of the future for NJ COSAC.”

Dr. Linda S. Meyer, Executive Director of the NJ COSAC


Appreciative Inquiry

We use an innovative cutting edge method for all of our services called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). AI is a positive, strength based philosophy and methodology that focuses organizational and team based dialogue on past and present peak experiences of success, discovers the underlying conditions and factors that lead to such organizational success and then plans ways to leverage them for a desired, preferred future.

Click on these links to read more about Appreciative Inquiry. 

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A WHOLE SYSTEM APPROACH TO POSITIVE ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
AI is also based on the notion that the most effective and sustainable approach to organizational leadership and problem solving is through “whole system” involvement and collaborative dialogue.

It is our belief and experience that organizations flourish with innovation, creativity, growth and unparalleled commitment when boards, executives, and management teams adopt open and inclusive approaches to planning and problem solving involving employees (at all levels) and external stakeholders. Dr. David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management has said:

“If you are prepared to believe in people, trust them, and acknowledge that in all probability they are the true experts about what needs to be done, then this is a highly productive approach for you.”

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AFFIRMATIVE TOPIC CHOICE: WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT MORE OF?
One of the key principles of appreciative inquiry is that what you choose to focus organizational attention on begins the process of positive change toward a desired and preferred future. It is therefore essential to ensure that your topic choice be positive so as to move you and your organization toward what it is you want-- a positive and affirmative future. We work in partnership and collaboration with our clients to re-frame old style negative, deficit based thinking about fixing problems toward the new cutting edge approach of defining affirmative topic choice interventions that begin the process of moving organizations forward to positive change success. Affirmative topic choice(s) are defined in consultation with the top executive, the management team or through appreciative interviews of whole system internal and external organizational stakeholders.

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DISCOVERING THE POSITIVE CORE OF STRENGTHS
Appreciative Inquiry is the study of what works within organizations. The identification of those aspects or elements of organizational life when it is operating at its very best comprises the positive core of strengths. It is the organization’s positive core of strengths that is leveraged for the kind of future success you want and desire. The positive core is inclusive of the organization’s best practices, core systems and competencies, core values, partnerships and relationships, collective knowledge, innovations…just to name a few. We assist organizations to discover their positive core of strengths as part of a strategic planning process or around an affirmative topic. We then work with our clients to leverage the positive core for what it is the organization wants to become or achieve.

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THE 4-I PLANNING CYCLE OF APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
Appreciative Inquiry process uses positive questions and a 4-I cycle to frame dialogue leading to organizational positive change. The 4-I cycle begins with the identification of an affirmative topic or topics and then follows a cycle of: Inquiry to define the positive core of strengths; Imagine to create an image of the desired and preferred future of the organization; Innovate to address the organizational design elements that will enable the organization to achieve what it desires and Implement to develop specific and measurable action plans to achieve success.

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APPRECIATIVE STRATEGIC PLANNING: THE SOAR FRAMEWORK
For strategic planning we use appreciative inquiry with the SOAR Framework conceived by Dr. Jackie Stavros. SOAR refers to Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results/Resources. The SOAR Framework adds another element of positive and affirmative thinking to the process of creating positive and sustainable organizational change.

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Appreciative strategic planning typically occurs within the context of a one to four day summit, workshop or retreat. An appreciative inquiry strategic planning summit, workshop or retreat can involve the leaders of an organization; however, in its most ideal form, it should be designed to include the voices of the whole system: top leadership, a cross section of the entire organization and some external stakeholders—customers, clients and or service/vendor providers.

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APPRECIATIVE ORGANIZATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND INTERVIEWING TOOLS
We have developed appreciative organizational assessment tools to help organizations identify systems, structures, processes, practices, policies and procedures that can and should be reoriented to help facilitate positive organizational change. The diagnostic tools we use to conduct interviews of employees at all levels and possibly external stakeholders feature the use of positive questions to identify the positive core and to frame a collective image of peoples’ the hopes and aspirations for the future of the organization.

To see examples of how we have used Appreciative Inquiry to help our clients…