237926 Appreciative Inquiry in Trying Times

Monday, October 31, 2011

Colleen Woolsey, PhD, ARNP, MSN , Public Health, Health Services Agency Stanislaus County/Public Health, Modesto, CA
Faced with dwindling financial resources that cause staff reductions, impact productivity, erode infrastructure, lower morale, and corrode the core mission, the agency shifted from standard problem solving to a form of positive solution generation, Appreciative Inquiry (AI). AI provided a framework that clarified irreducible elements of the organizational mission, supported the exploration of what works well in the agency, re-energized employees, assisted in goal attainment, and initiated improvements in productivity. The AI process asked a group of managers and supervisors to answer one question, envision two scenarios, and spend an hour exploring each. The query was: when have you felt most alive, engaged and committed to your life and profession? The first scenario envisioned the perfect health department. The second imagined the agency, at its future best. These conversations highlighted positive elements of the organization and clarified organizational mission. From here, the group built strategies for dealing with the current economic reality. The process concluded with the team stating their commitment to public health was re-invigorated and they had a renewed sense of hope. Their productivity was improved. The AI process was successful and may be used throughout the agency. This promising practice offers an alternative to standard problem solving techniques, is highly transportable to other agencies, and is economical to use and resulted in apparent sustained results.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related nursing

Learning Objectives:
1.) briefly list elements of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process 2.) explain AIís use as a method to clarify organizational mission and improve morale 3.) describe the benefits of AI over routine problem solving methods

Keywords: Leadership, Workforce

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I oversee all Public Health programs and staff for this county. In this role I am continuously asked by staff how we can provide all services with current budget cuts. Also, due to these cuts staff morale is low and case loads and work are increasing due to employee reductions. Tools that support and focus staff on irreducible PH mission elements are important. Appreciateve Inquiry has been used in this agency with good outcomes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.