Tag Archives: leadership

Inclusive Planning

I continue to toy with the ideas and values behind inclusive planning. As a central theme of my MA research, I am consistently looking to better understand the nuances of inclusion in practice. We all have moments of clarity amidst our trip through the haze of organizational systems. Mine came while thinking about the juxtaposition of two levers in our planning processes. The first of these is the rejuvenation of the Japanese system of lean thinking. The other is the ongoing need to better understand how social capital can be drawn upon to create more with less. Each have their individual value for organizations, but I think together they simply make good practice.


In their treatment of lean thinking, Womack and Jones (2003) identified four key components of creating effective and efficient organizational systems. In order to be lean, an organization they said must structure every activity, connect customers with suppliers, simplify workflow, and experiment at low levels (p. 58). Not unlike my previous post on strategic planning, the planning elements are apparent in this process. Plans of all sorts in my experience are an activity guide for others to follow. Where I think planning falls short however is in how organizations connect with their customers and engage them in various projects.

In both non-profit and profit oriented organizations there is an engagement process that in my opinion only touches the potential value of consumer interest. Traditionally, these needs assessments are focused on satisfaction related feedback and opinions on potential gaps. Organizations use this information in their planning in the attempt to meet the needs of their constituents. Baker (2003) pointed out that there is a power in relationships that can be harnessed by an organization. In his description of the value of social capital, he recognizes the power of the collaborative network built on a system of reciprocity that moves people awaY from managing tasks and Individuals to creating relational value (p. 14-15). Although this may seem complementary to the process of strategic planning, I would argue that if the relationship is not been developed first, then planning is fruitless.

I wonder, how many organizations truly consider their strategic planning to  be inclusive? How many are so focused on lean strategies to save costs that they negate the value of reciprocal relationships. I wonder how our relationships can truly be leveraged to create a feedback system that is ongoing and engaging?


Baker, W. (2003). Building collaborative relationships. Leader to Leader, 28, 11-15.

Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (2003). New paradigms: Shedding corporate weight. Leader to Leader, 28, 57-59.

Seed of the Week – Appreciative Inquiry

Today is a new day for each of us, a new beginning, and for me it is the start of a new weekly blog called Seed of The Week. I would like to publicly acknowledge Jessie Saran for being at the edge of helping me form this vision. As one of my weekly readers this post is dedicated to you Jessie! seed_v1

I would like to talk a little about Appreciative Inquiry and how this approach to relationship can make teams stronger. Having just returned from an intense retreat at Royal Roads University I have continued to see the power of individuals in creating their destiny. As each of us dig deeper into understanding who we are it appears as though some similar themes abound on the merits of our relationships. Personal awareness, interpersonal support, and integration of feedback all seem to have risen to the surface as core outcomes of this retreat. In my opinion, interpersonal relationships are the cohesive threads that connect these themes.

Interpersonal relationships draw us out of isolation and allows us achieve momentum to build and create our capacity to grow both as individuals and teams. Cooperrider (1998) promoted that appreciative inquiry “is about building learning community … and open sharing with one another as creators, colleagues, co-theorists, and co-conspirators” (p. 3). If relationships connect our experiences, an appreciative stance can only make them stronger. Building a sense of solidarity on teams is also likely a component of the success of relationships in an organization.

Working in a cohort on various projects during this retreat, I came to realize once again the power of strong teams. My good friend suggested that teams are strongest when they are created in an environment where everyone is on equal footing (S. Amaljil, personal communication, February 23, 2013). In my experience, I agree that working on a team with equal authority, mutual intent, and a willingness to learn creates the momentum for change. Cooperrider (2001) stated that “we all have a desire to be able to share, without censorship, our hope and visions of the true, the good, and the possible” (p. 12). In my experience, organizations continue to struggle with achieving this latitude (Vocabulary.com defines latitude as the “freedom from normal restraints in conduct”). Perhaps organizations are burdened by the history of their inherent social norms and archetypes that exist within their cultures? Perhaps organizational cultures create the barriers that censor people’s willingness to share their true feelings and in the process inhibit the full potential of the power of the relationship?

Interspersed throughout the book Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry, Hammond and Royal (2001) bring forward key lessons that point out the flaws of using a problem solving approach to creating organizational change. They further bring in Cooperrider’s (1996) blueprint for creating community change promoted that problem solving is slow, ineffective, rarely creates vision, and is knows for generating defensiveness (p. 148). In our learning community at Royal Roads we approached situations from a developmental rather than problem solving lens. Approaching each of our challenges through a developmental lens allowed us to “come together to both construct images of the system’s most desired future and to formulate creative strategies to bring that future about” (Cooperrider, p. 151). The trick now is to figure out how we can truly immerse the power of this stance into our organizations in a way that reduces the value of authority and hierarchy, and increases the power of individual strengths as part of the collective approach to building stronger teams. What do you think? I look forward to your comments.


Cooperrider, D. (1996). Getting Started. In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (pp. 147-159). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.

Cooperrider, D. (1998). What is appreciative inquiry? In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (p. 3). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.

Cooperrider, D. (2001). Why appreciative inquiry? In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (p. 12). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.