Appreciative Inquiry Case Study Shows a Guide to a Positive Work Culture at Michigan Medicine

Appreciative Inquiry Case Study Shows a Guide to a Positive Work Culture at Michigan Medicine

About 3 minutes to read

Key points to remember:

  • The Michigan Medicine Wellness Office has identified Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a guide to a positive work culture, as evidenced by a case study unit
  • Appreciative Inquiry is an interview-based process that allows staff members and management to communicate honestly and effectively.
  • AI can be used in daily huddles or weekly team meetings for an efficient process

The Michigan Medicine Wellness Office uses a process called Appreciative Inquiry (AI)a tool that focuses on teams at their best.

With data now available from the Vital Voices Annual Employee Engagement Survey, the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office has identified 12 East as one of the clinical units that performed exceptionally well across all survey indices, including including areas of well-being.

The office then surveyed a subset of the unit’s team members to find out what worked for them and how it might apply to other areas of the organization.

The case study

The interviews were designed to learn more about how 12E creates a culture of wellbeing where everyone can thrive at work.

For example, there were prompts to discuss when things went well – and why. This was designed to highlight the positive aspects of teamwork that help overcome difficult situations. Rather than ignoring difficulties, Appreciative Inquiry identifies how teams can thrive despite challenges.

A colleague from 12E said, “We have a close personal bond with each other” and “During times of low morale, staff meetings are used to discuss feelings and obstacles. We openly discuss issues and acknowledge difficulties even if the situation has not yet changed.

Members of the unit were quoted about staff relations saying that “co-workers are comforting on difficult days”, “I feel at peace when I see my co-workers” and “we always support each other”.

The results of this particular interview highlighted many best practices and strategies for facilitating well-being, strong teamwork, and compassionate leadership within a clinical unit, even in the face of adversity during the pandemic.

Unit staff members have made statements about the exemplary leadership shown by their managers, including encouraging people to speak up, setting an example, being willing to help, adopting open door, showing flexibility, confidence and autonomy, responsibility and affirming their achievements. A notable quote was “they really follow when we’re asked, ‘what do you need from us and how can we help you?'”

Specially designed for Michigan Medicine

The Appreciative Inquiry Guide & Template, originally adapted by the American Medical Association, was specifically designed for use at Michigan Medicine.

In practice, AI can be integrated into the daily and weekly meetings of clinical teams. The guide and template contain advice on how to conduct the interview, handle negative statements and ensure anonymity where necessary.

Additional resources have been created by the Office of Wellbeing to help teams, leaders and colleagues create a more positive work environment.

For example, the Tracking Care of Teams (TC2) checklist is for mid-level managers who have the unique role of communicating between front-line staff and upper management. This tool provides prompts that other managers have found useful to help facilitate positive conversations and outcomes.

Using a code of conduct provides clear expectations that are created collaboratively with the entire team, inspiring accountability and a shared vision. A successful unit shared their code of conduct as an example that could easily be learned by another unit or team.

The Wellness Office makes a wealth of resources available to all employees in its quest for the most positive work environment possible.

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