Whole System Change

A term used to refer to the ultimate goal of Appreciative Inquiry to transform an entire organization at one time; all stakeholders are involved in the change effort or, if that is not feasible, representatives of all stakeholders involved in the change effort.


A thing or idea perceived vividly in the imagination; a clear mental picture of a result you want to create; a compelling image. It answers the question: what would it look like if our organization or group were ideal or always at our best? According to Margaret Wheatley, we need to embrace vision as the invisible field that can enable us to recreate our workplaces, and our worlds.


Having the power or tendency to transform. To change a system in nature, disposition, heart, character, or the like; to convert. Appreciative Inquiry can transform an organization or group or community, especially when it supports self-organized improvisation, rather than standard implementation.


Changes in the identity of a system and qualitative changes in the state of being of that system. According to the research of Gervase R. Bushe and Aniq Khamisa, examples of organizations that have been transformed through Appreciative Inquiry include: Avon of Mexico, Cleveland Clinic, GTE (now Verizon), Hunter Douglas, Loghorn Western, Southview West Agency, and United Religions. In all seven of these cases, the Destiny/Delivery phase focused on “improvisation” rather than “implementation” which resulted in new ideas and knowledge and a generative metaphor that transformed the accepted beliefs of system members.


The patterns, high points, life-giving forces brought forward during appreciative interviews. They are used to develop provocative propositions.

Strength-based change

An approach that focuses on the strengths, successes, core competencies, assets, etc. of a human system in order to create more of them.


The people who hold a stake in what happens in the organization; the people who need to be involved and/or represented in an inquiry.


A strengths-based approach to strategic planning that allows an organization to plan for and create its future through collaboration, shared understanding, and a commitment to action. SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results as an alternative to the traditional SWOT strategic planning.

Small Systems Change

A sub-group within a human system, such as a department or work group, or a relatively small organization.

Sociotechnical Systems (STS)

In organizational development is an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The term also refers to the interaction between society’s complex infrastructures and human behavior.