Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Four D's of Better Strategic Planning

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Four D's of Better Strategic Planning

Article excerpt

Instead of approaching business as a series of problems to be solved--say, how to cut down on spending, or how to keep employees from getting bored at work--organizations should take a more appreciative look at themselves.

That's the aim of appreciative inquiry, a change method that consultant Bill Swedish thinks can help businesses get out of a negative rut.

The problem-oriented approach limits business thinking, and companies end up being reactive instead of proactive. "We limit the scope of what we consider as real possibilities for our organizations," said Swedish, who led a workshop on strategic planning at the AICPA CFO Conference in May. "Appreciative inquiry doesn't ignore problems, but it intends to look at problems from the other side, that side being opportunity And it intends to take the organization out of the realm of negative thinking--thinking of scarcity thinking of lack, thinking of problems--and move the organization into thinking about capabilities, strengths, and opportunities. And that shift--that does magic."

Here are the four D's of appreciative inquiry with explanation from Swedish:

* Discovery. This phase is characterized by discipline and rigor, designed to define the "positive core" of the organization. What are the values? What do we do when we're at our best? Organizations must avoid looking at questions such as, "What's wrong with us?" Swedish said. It's not about fixing but about identifying what doesn't need fixing and can be improved.

* Dream. In this phase, organizations explore their possibilities. "How can we create the biggest, wildest, happiest, most fulfilling future, and not just in terms of profit?" The dream phase involves thinking beyond customary boundaries. "We take the limits off and identify what these pictures of the future could be," Swedish said. An example of a company dreaming of a new strategy: Netflix, the movie rental and streaming company that evolved from delivering DVDs to creating original content.

* Design. This is a practical phase, where the ideas and energy of the first two phases are prioritized. "What has the highest value? What is the most important thing for us to do? …

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