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Part 1: The Path to Organizational Health By Al Lopus

Our experience at Best Christian Workplaces Institute supports there are four steps in “The 4-D” cycle an organization can take to move towards organizational health.

Those steps include :

  • Discovery (appreciating and valuing)
  • Dream (envisioning)
  • Design (co-constructing the future)
  • Destiny (learning and empowering to sustain the future)

These four steps reflect an approach entitled “Appreciative Inquiry” pioneered by David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University. “Appreciative Inquiry” appeals to Christian organizations because it follows an approach based on strengths that align with a biblical worldview.

Today, I focus on the first two steps.


1. Start by assessing organizational health. Many leaders find it helpful to know what the issues are so they can surgically address them rather than rely on their own understanding. The results should identify key outcomes, such as overall health, leadership team cohesion, levels of trust, strength of middle management, and areas of strength. What is the level of health in your organization’s culture?

The results of a survey assessment give you a clear picture of your organization’s overall health and the fundamentals of a plan to address issues blocking your organization. One vital task of a leader is to define the current environment and move the group towards excellence.

2. Engage your staff in dialogue. The second part to engage individuals and small groups in dialogue. We encourage an appreciative approach by asking positive questions. For example, “Let’s make a wish for our organization: Describe what it looks like when there is a high level of trust between senior leadership and staff.” These exercises are targeted to address issues identified as improvement areas in the organizational survey and those blocking organizational health.

3. Identify your organization’s core passion(s). Tapping into your organization’s core passion is necessary in identifying its creative life-affirming qualities, capabilities, and resources. It is a search for what nourishes people for better performance and organizational excellence; what excites, energizes, and inspires employees, customers, and constituents. Some describe this as “how God shows up here.”


Overcoming pessimism among staff is a hurdle for many organizations. The Dream step uses the results of the Discovery step to identify key themes when the organization has been most alive. Envisioning involves passionate thinking and creating a positive image of a desired future.

1. Engage God and the entire staff in the Dream phase. The days of directing an organization by taking the senior leadership team offsite for a couple days are over. To move quickly, the whole system must be involved to catch a new vision and passion.

2. Have your staff describe “high point” experiences. God often instructed his leaders to build an altar in a spot where significant experiences occurred to help us remember. This is similar. Have your staff describe “high point” experiences when they felt most alive and engaged in the ministry.

3. Describe your organization at its best. In a group setting, have the staff describe what your organization would look like if it were everything they dreamed for it. This process is personally and organizationally invigorating, and it can be the catalyst for significant progress.

How are you currently assessing the health of your organization?


Al Lopus is president and co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI)—excerpt from Outcomes Magazine Summer 2011.


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