Appreciative Inquiry case study shows guide to positive workplace culture at Michigan Medicine

December 8, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees, , ,

Approximately a 3-minute read 

Key takeaways:

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

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

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

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

The case study

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

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

A colleague from 12E said that “We have close personal connections to each other,” and “During times of low morale, staff meetings are used to discuss feelings and barriers. We openly talk through issues and acknowledge hardships even if the situation may not change yet.”

Members of the unit were quoted about staff connections saying that “Coworkers are comforting on rough days,” “I feel at peace when I see my coworkers,” and “We always have each other’s backs.”

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

The unit staff members provided statements about exemplary leadership demonstrated by their managers, which included encouraging people to speak up, leading by example, willingness to help, open door policies, flexibility, trust and autonomy, accountability, and affirmations of accomplishments. One notable quote was “they genuinely follow through when we are asked, ‘what do you need from us and how can we help?’”

Specially designed for Michigan Medicine

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

In practice, AI can be integrated into the daily and weekly meetings of clinical teams. Within the guide and template, there are tips on how to conduct the interview, deal with negative statements and assure anonymity when necessary.

Additional resources were created by the Wellness Office to aid teams, leaders and colleagues in building a more positive workplace environment.

For example, the Taking Care of Teams Checklist (TC2) is geared toward mid-level managers who experience the unique role of communicating between frontline staff and senior leadership. This tool provides prompts that other managers have found useful in helping facilitate positive conversations and outcomes.

Using a code of conduct provides clear expectations that are created in collaboration with the entire team, inspiring accountability and shared vision. A high-performing unit shared their code of conduct as an example that could easily be assimilated to another unit or team.

The Wellness Office has a host of resources available to all employees in its quest for the most positive workplace environment possible.

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