CREATING THE INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
“Stories have wings, and they fly from mountain top to mountain top”
- Romanian Proverb
The Appreciative Interview is a tool for exploring the "life-giving" factors of the
organization. It is a process of discovery. The data you collect in interviews will enable
you to locate, illuminate and understand the distinctive strengths that lend the
organization life and vitality when functioning at its best.
This will help guide you in developing an interview protocol which you will use to gather
data about DTE. Sample interview questions are provided for your reference.
Creating the interview protocol is an exciting task: What we ask determines what we
find. What we find determines how we talk. How we talk determines how we imagine
together. How we imagine together determines what we achieve.
Key Considerations in designing good appreciative inquiry questions
1. Stated in the affirmative.
2. A leading question that builds on half full assumption.
3. Gives a broad definition to the topic.
4. Presented as an invitation:
*positive feeling words;
5. Good questions enhance the possibilities of story telling and narratives.
6. Good questions are phrased in rapport talk not report talk.
7. Good questions are sometimes ambiguous. They give room to swim around.
8. Good questions are valuing of what is. They spark the appreciative imagination by
helping the person locate experiences that are worth valuing.
9. Good questions convey unconditional positive regard.
10. Good questions evoke ultimate concerns. *Source: Marge Schiller
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SAMPLE INTERVIEW PROTOCOL
Group/ Department ____________________Years of Service______ Phone_______
As you know, these are challenging times for utilities and for DTE. To be able to move
forward, we need to be able to identify and enhance our strengths. I’m going to be part
of a conference this fall that will be mapping out the future strategic direction for DTE .
To prepare for this event, I’m interviewing several people to find out about their
experiences and hopes for the future. Our goal is to locate, illuminate, and understand
the distinctive values, management practices, and skills which lend the organization its
organizational vitality. In other words, we are interested in understanding more about
what is happening when we are at our best.
The information you provide in this interview will be used to …(e.g. help prepare a
corporate vision statement as seen and valued by members at all levels in the
corporation.) Our interest is in learning from your experience. The collected comments,
experience and suggestions from all of the employees interviewed will be summarized
and reviewed with Senior Management.
The interview takes about one hour. The interview will tend to focus on the organization
when it is operating at its best in several different topic areas:
EXPERIENCE OF ORGANIZATION
1. To begin, I’d like to learn about your beginnings with the organization.
? What attracted you to the organization?
? What were your initial excitements and impressions when you joined the
2. Looking at your entire experience, can you recall a time when you felt most alive,
most involved, or most excited about your involvement in the organization?
? What made it an exciting experience?
? Who were the most significant others?
? Why were they significant?
? What was it about you that made it a peak experience?
? What were the most important factors in the company that helped to make it a
peak experience? (Probe: leadership qualities, structure, rewards, systems,
skills, strategy and relationships.)
3. Let’s talk for a moment about some things you value deeply. Specifically, the things
you value about 1) yourself; 2) the nature of your work; and 3) the organization.
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? Without being humble, what do you value the most about yourself - as a
human being, a friend, a parent, a citizen, and son/daughter?
? When you are feeling best about your work, what do you value about the task
? What is it about the organization that you value?
? What is the single most important thing the company has contributed to your
BEING THE BEST The organization builds on proven strengths and has a history of being a pioneer in a
wide number of areas. In your opinion, what is the most important achievement that
you can recall that best illustrates this spirit of being the best?
What is the most outstanding or successful achievement you have been involved in
accomplishing? A piece of work or project of which you are particularly proud?
? What was it about you - unique qualities you have - that made it possible to
achieve this result?
? What organizational factors (e.g., leadership, teamwork, culture) fostered this
determination to excel or achieve?
SHARED OWNERSHIP COMMITMENT
Organizations work best when people at all levels share a basic common vision in
relation to the company’s core mission, intent, and direction. When people know the big
picture they often experience a feeling of purpose, pride, significance, and unity.
In your mind, what is the common mission or purpose that unites everyone in this
How is this communicated and nurtured?
Think of a time you felt most committed to the organization and its mission.
? Why did you feel such commitment?
? Give one example of how the organization has shown its commitment to you.
A cooperative team spirit is important to our company. Important initiatives usually
depend on the support and good will of others within work groups and/or between
groups that cross department, specialization, and hierarchical levels. Cooperation
requires trust, open channels of communication, responsiveness to other’s needs, and
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Think of a time when there was an extraordinary display of cooperation between diverse
individuals or groups in the company
? What made such cooperation possible? (Explore: planning methods used,
communication systems or process, leadership qualities, incentives for
cooperation, skills, team development techniques and others).
Give an example of the most effective team or committee you have been part of.
What are the factors/ skills that made it effective?
In empowered organizations people feel significant. People feel they have a chance to
make a difference. They feel that what they do has significance - and they are
What does the organization do best (at least three examples) when it comes to
How do people develop these qualities?
COMMUNICATION: Effective organizations often create a special feeling of alignment among their members,
wherein each individual feels that he or she lives the values and goals of the
organization in their work and lives.
What does DTE do to heighten a sense of understanding, alignment, or attunement
among its employees, partners, shareholders, and customers?
When new members enter the organization, what does DTE do particularly well in
educating them about both the mission and values of the organization?
What is the core factor that gives vitality and life to the organization (without it the
organization would cease to exist)?
If you could develop or transform the organization in any way you wished, what three
things would you do to heighten its vitality and overall health?
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INFORMATION REQUESTED FROM THE INTERVIEWER (please fill out after each interview)
A. What was the best quote that came out of the interview?
B.What was the best story that came out of the interview?
Date of Interview___________________________
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CONSTRUCTING PROVOCATIVE PROPOSITIONS
The aim of Appreciative Inquiry is to help the organization in:
? Envisioning a collectively desired future, and
? Carrying forth that vision in ways which successfully translate intention into reality,
and beliefs into practices.
Appreciative Inquiry begins with the selection of some affirmatively stated topic - for
example, cooperation - and then proceeds with a study of the organization, guided by these three basic questions:
1. What is cooperation, and when and where has cooperation been at its best in this organization?
2. What makes cooperation (between individuals, groups, departments, etc.) possible?
3. What are the possibilities which enhance or maximize the potential for cooperation?
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A provocative proposition is a statement that bridges the best of what is with your own
speculation or intuition of what might be. It is provocative to the extent it stretches the
realm of the status quo, challenges common assumptions or routines, and helps
suggest real possibilities that represent desired possibilities for the organization and its
In many ways, constructing provocative propositions is like architecture. Your task is to
create a set of propositions about the ideal organization: what would our organization
look like if it were designed in every way, to maximize and preserve the topics we’ve
chosen to study? Organizational elements or factors you may wish to include:
Company Y is poised for a positive future because:
Partners at all regions share a basic common vision in relation to the firm’s
core missions, intent, and direction. It is an exciting, challenging, and
meaningful direction which helps give all partners a feeling of significance,
purpose, pride, and unity. The firm uses whatever time and resources are
needed to bring everyone on board and thus continuously cultivates the
thrill of having a one firm feeling, of being a valued member of one
outstanding national partnership.
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CONSTRUCTING PROVOCATIVE PROPOSITIONS
(Positive Images of the Ideal Organization)
CRITERIA FOR GOOD PROPOSITIONS:
? Is it provocative ... does it stretch, challenge, or interrupt?
? Is it grounded ... are there examples that illustrate the ideal as real possibility?
? Is it desired ... if it could be fully actualized would the organization want it? Do
you want it as a preferred future?
? Is it stated in affirmative and bold terms?
? Does it follow a social architecture approach (e.g. 7 - S model, etc.)?
? Is it a High Involvement Process?
? Is it used to stimulate Intergenerational Organizational Learning?
? Is there balanced management of: Continuity, Novelty, Transition?
Example: Fairmount North American has created an organization where
everyone experiences themselves as owners of the business-- where everyone
at all levels feels the organization is theirs to improve, change, and help become
what it can potentially become. Fairmount recognizes there is a big difference
between owners versus hired hands. Ownership, at Fairmount, happens in three
ways: (1) on an economic level where everyone is a shareholder and shares in
the profit, (2) on a psychological level it happens because people are
authentically involved, and (3) on a business level when the big picture purpose
is shared by all, and all take part at the strategic level of business planning.
9 Imagine Chicago, 1997