Appreciative Inquiry - The 4D Cycle

The very essence of Appreciative Inquiry can be captured in a 4D cycle. The foundation of this idea is that organizations tend to evolve in the direction they tend to study. An Appreciative Inquiry emphasises on an organization’s positive aspects and its potentials, rather than weaknesses and loose points.

Choosing an affirmative theme

First, a theme is determined for the Appreciative Inquiry. This theme remains constant throughout the duration of the inquiry process. Then the Inquiry moves on to the following four phases −

  • Discovery Phase
  • Dream Phase
  • Design Phase
  • Destiny Phase

Theme detecting is the first step of Appreciative Inquiry and the reason it’s important is that the theme should be of strategic value to the organization. In this step, we determine the entities, resources or attributes that the organization or the employee needs for better performance.


The Discovery Phase

This is the stage at which the direction of the change is determined. This theme may be an opportunity for the organization to grow, and thus, is translated into an affirmative that invites formulations.

During this phase of the inquiry, we emphasise on the best facilities that we can have at present, and pitch it against what was considered “the best” previously. Usually, this is done by conducting a one-on-one interview with every employee being asked four to five questions. These interviews focus on method detection, while developing a positive feeling among all the participants.

The discovery phase would result in −

  • A deeper understanding of the positive core of the organization
  • A deeper insight into focus and a great built of collective wisdom
  • Discussions and examples of best solutions and outstanding behaviours

Even before the execution of forthcoming stages of the 4D cycle, spontaneous and unplanned changes start taking effect. This is generally due to the questions that are asked of the resources. It helps them connect to the vision of the company and their mission in the organization.

The Dream Phase

In this stage of the 4D cycle, people are supposed to collectively assess their dreams versus their achievements in the fields of life, work, ambitions, and their relationship with the organization.

At this stage of their careers, people nurture dreams and ambitions, even beyond their current limits, so that they can have a brighter future for themselves and the organization. The positive core gets even more energized and people are even more motivated. They look forward to resultdriven programs and are interested to check their performances.

The outcomes of this phase are −

  • The organization gets innovative in its thoughts.
  • The employees get a positive potential for building strategic opportunities.
  • Sense of purpose is developed and the participants get even more committed.

The Design Phase

On the basis of the last two stages, various ideas and designs to implement the solutions are laid out. These designs may be in form of interventions, or other elements like industrial training. This step is designed to implement thoughts into practice, and includes all steps needed to make the dreams real.

Priorities of the organization are also determined at this stage, and all the important elements in a team’s proposition that necessary to invoke strong thoughts are written down. This proposal is written on a positive note and in the past tense (as if all the goals within the proposal have already been completed) along with the quality of the organization they wish to deliver.

An elaborate picture is painted that describes the positive core of the organization and what the results of the ideas will yield after being implemented over the course of time. These presentations persuade the management to give a green signal to the proposals. These may include decisions, processes, collaborations, etc.

The Destiny Phase

This is the last stage of the 4D cycle. Working groups are formed and work is assigned to them at this stage. Various plans and goals are defined and work is delegated to different teams depending on their expertise. The participants are invited to take part in the work groups.

Various participants are asked to fulfill different commitments and tasks. This stage results in a great number of changes taking shape within the organization. The most important change is the collaborative effort it takes to function as one organization.