Facilitating Positive Change with Appreciative Inquiry

December 23, 2019

“Positive Change” is not only in the title, but it also describes the result of a recent three-day workshop on Appreciative Inquiry. From October 30 – November 1, 36 employees from Lawrence General took part in the workshop thanks to scholarships from the hospital.

Appreciative Inquiry is a theory and practice used to create lasting change in organizations and communities by building awareness of what energizes people and systems when they are at their best. For example, instead of asking “What are we doing wrong and how do we fix it?” we ask, “What do we want to do MORE of? What does it look like when we things are going well?” Appreciative Inquiry emphasizes relationships, strengths, values and co-creation of a shared vision for the future.

Here at Lawrence General, Appreciative Inquiry has become part of our culture over the last four years and is used to spark real change in terms of patient experience. The Appreciative Inquiry practice has been used to inform projects in several areas including the Emergency Center, Admissions/Access Management, and Outpatient Rehabilitation.

Participants not only left the workshop with real momentum and energy, but they also planted the seeds for several projects to benefit Lawrence General’s goals of improving the patient experience and employee culture. Each table of workshop participants represented work groups focused on using Appreciative Inquiry to meet a goal. For example, one table of employees established a goal of finding ways to have more meaningful interactions with our patients. The comment surfaced that they wished they spoke Spanish, as many of our patients prefer, and are more comfortable, speaking Spanish. One member of the Patient & Family Advisory Council, who was attending the workshop at our invitation, overheard their conversation and quickly said she would volunteer to teach employees to speak Spanish. The advisor, Nieves Rios-Moya, is a native of Spain, and tutors Spanish students in Andover.

An enthusiastic group of leaders has since volunteered to participate in a pilot Spanish class based at Lawrence General that will run from January to June. For a small fee per class, this group will participate in developing and testing the curriculum for a program that would be offered more broadly to Lawrence General employees after the pilot is complete.

Nieves remarked to the workshop group that Nelson Mandela believed if you speak to someone in your language you speak to their brain, but if you speak to them in their own language, you speak to their heart. That simple fact is especially important in conversations about something as personal as health and it caused this group to imagine how much more meaningful our daily interactions would be for Spanish patients and families if we were comfortable speaking to them in their own language. The ball that began as a conversation at a workshop table is now rolling! Stay tuned for more information about the class as it develops.