NCR Networking Meeting – 2009-06-10

Location: NCR – Colonel By Room, Ottawa City Hall

Subject:  “What Would W. Edwards Deming Think of Appreciative Inquiry?”

Registrants: 30

Presentation: Attached.

Speaker: Dan Corbett, Principal at Corsaw Associates, Kingston. Dan was formerly the President & CEO of the National Quality Institute (NQI) and the President of St. Lawrence College.

Abstract: In the last six months I took a sabbatical from full time employment to take time to assess my “next phase” in work life. In that period I decided to learn about Appreciative Inquiry, a strengths- based approach to whole system organizational change.  I have come to believe that this positive change methodology is very supportive of continuous quality improvement. That is why I have called this presentation “What would W. Edwards Deming Think About Appreciative Inquiry?” 

Two quotes from Deming are at the heart of the AI methodology. “It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activities or methods. It must always relate to how life is better for everyone. The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in
the system. The aim must include plans for the future.”  He further states: “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing”.

Quality is about change. Some quality improvements work. However, I had a nagging question as to why is it that well designed quality improvements, are not sustained. To seek an answer, I decided to enroll in an executive program in Appreciative Inquiry at Case Western Reserve University, where the methodology was developed. I wanted to learn how AI is being used as a way to bring sustainable whole system improvements to organizations. Late in his life Deming said that quality was about the human spirit. I think that he would see Appreciative Inquiry in the same way, as it is about providing a way to engage the human spirit in improving the workplace and to achieving a better future for everyone.

Dan Corbett