Destiny in Appreciative Coaching: Appreciative Process as Action Planning

Posted: August 5, 2014

I’d like to write a little about Destiny/Delivery – the last phase in the 5 D model of Appreciative Inquiry – because it’s the phase that’s taken me longest to understand. And it appears I’m not alone.

What makes this phase different to the others in the process? Up till this point we have been moving through a familiar pathway – we have defined a topic to inquire into, we have conducted a discovery into best experiences and we have created a dream, which has now been refined into a provocative proposition or possibility statement. All through this we have carefully put aside our knee jerk problem-solving habits and learnt to trust that locating sources of energy and life will be more than enough to deal with the problem we may have.

The pinnacle we have reached in this high-energy process is the possibility statement – we have finally captured in words a future that both inspires us and is rooted in the best experiences of the past. We are connected to our positive core and, driven by that energy, we can imagine a future that inspires us and calls us to action.

At this point the process has a clear shift. Or at least it appears to.

We see ourselves as having completed the vision, and now we are going to begin implementation. But we are stuck because we’re not sure of how to implement *appreciatively*. In fact the world view of problem-solving is so commonplace that we may not even notice that we have already subtly shifted out of an appreciative inquiry lens.

Analyse, Plan, Act. Repeat.

If we think in very broad terms about our normal way of doing change, we see three phases – analysing the issue/problem, planning the change and finally implementing. We may even add in feedback after this to create a kind of fourth stage where we again analyse the implementation, plan it better and implement it again. If we see Ai processes as being a version of this process where we Analyse in Discovery, Plan in Dream and Implement in Destiny, we miss out on some of the unique qualities of change as it is conceived of in Ai.

As a reminder, one of the core principles of AI is the constructivist principle, which says that we co-create our realities in language. In language. And another, the simultaneity principle say that inquiry creates change. Inquiry creates change.

If we remember those two principles, it is unnecessary to begin to wonder about implementation, because there is no implementation in the appreciative model. A radical statement, so let me explain. When we think of change broken into phases like planning and implementation, we are using a modernist conception of how change works. In this view of change the change can be planned and then carried out as two distinct phases. In this model actions are planned as a means to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

The post-modern view is different – it asks how can we reframe action planning to take into account that we’re not closing the ‘gap’ but rather we are creating, through dialogue and language, a new, inspiring future and generating actions from it? The answer lies in understanding the basic flow of the approach we have chosen to take.

The flow of the Appreciative Approach In the appreciative approach we can identify a constant, non-linear engagement with three inquiries:

1. The Best Experience inquiry asks things like:

“Where is this possibility already happening?”

So there is no pressure to invent only new actions – in fact there will always be some actions that already exist that are creating this new future. By treating the possibility as a microcosm of the whole process we tap into a huge source of energy and find the process continues to carry us. Immediately it should be clear that the subtle pressure to invent new actions is off – we start, as we always do in the appreciative approach with **where things are already working**.

2. The Values inquiry asks things like:

“What made this life-giving experience significant for you?”

At any time we need to we can begin to mine these actions for further refinement of, and connection to the positive core.

3. The Wishes inquiry asks things like:

“Where does this possibility have the biggest potential to impact you?”

Within cultivation of an authentic appreciation for self and others, we can ask the client to stretch themselves by looking at areas that benefit **most** from being brought into connection with the positive core they have identified for themselves. This inquiry will always keep the leverage high – minimal effort for maximal results. When things begin feeling like hard work, struggle and effort, it is a clue that there is a disconnect from the positive core. It’s not that there isn’t hard work, there certainly is, it is simply that this hard work is not resisted. When there’s no resistance the task is simply the task and is not felt as struggle and effort.

The most important lesson

Appreciative Coaching is the paradigm shift from a deficit-based paradigm to a strengths-based one and it is an ongoing process.

Appreciative Coaching is not a linear progress from discovery to dream to design to destiny – it is an appreciative process that is flexible and non-linear, and the D’s can be applied as and when, and in any order as appropriate in the moment. It is non-linear because the process is not *going somewhere*. We are not getting from the present problem to the future solution. We are not closing that gap. Since we are not closing the gap, and we are connected to our positive core of energy we act with a high degree of improvisation and creativity.

When we reflect on what has been done it is also in the mode of appreciative process, we want to know:

– “What worked best there?” “Where did your possibility shine through this week?” (best experience)
– “What made that success significant for you?” “How was that experience meaningful for you?” (values)
– “Where does your provocative proposition have the biggest potential impact now?” “What area do you think is ripe now?” (wishes)

Answering the final question in particular provokes improvisational actions which the client can commit to freely. When they’re complete we continue to engage the appreciative process, until such time as the possibility they have created is replaced improved or no longer called for.

Once a client connects with their positive core, and declares a new future possible as a provocative proposition, they are already influencing and creating that future. We keep that future alive by maintaining their connection to the core values that they find live-giving. And one way to do that is to ask questions that bring about the flow of appreciative inquiry.

Asking these questions is the action plan. Asking these questions is the expression of Destiny because Destiny is the continual engagement with the three aspects of the appreciative approach, adapted as is suitable to match the moment.

Destiny in Appreciative Coaching: Appreciative Process as Action Planning


  1. JJoanne Alford says:

    Hi Luke, I have been developing my understanding of AI for the past few years and it didn’t even dawn on me that I was completely going back into problem-solving mode when designing and thinking about the destiny phase. I feel so enlightened and can’t wait to run another AI for student leaders. Thank you so very much.

  2. Ppeter nyagah says:

    Amazing piece answering my biggest question of the day, started taking my team through AI today and wasn’t clear about destiny. keep sharing

  3. MMark Connelly says:

    Well written Luke!

    As an AI facilitator I have grappled for many years with concerns about sustainability. It was only in a recent AI coaching experience that I became clearer about the ongoing nature of change and how the modernist paradigm had edged its way back into my thinking.

    Your article has really helped my thinking by putting into words some of the ideas I have been holding. These ideas are informing my AI facilitation, coaching, and therapeutic work and making the possibilities very exciting.

  4. PPatrick Fuss says:

    Hello Luke
    I really like your article and your emphasis on the contructivist prinicple and the non-linear perspective and perception.
    You did not see much about the Design – how do you place that in your approach?
    I am using more interpretation instead of analsysis as it has a lot of why?
    We are surely creating a paradigm shift with being AI, Luke – and its imporant to understand this ROLE.
    thank you very much

  5. PPatricia Feemster says:


    I am brand new to Appreciative Inquiry. However, I really appreciate your article. It inspired me to think outside of the box of the 4-D model, especially the Destiny phase. I think that you really made some great points when you spoke about the fact that as we move forward with Discovery, Dream, and Design phases, we have already started to build on the Destiny phase (which I have interpreted as “implementation of new actions”). Therefore, are you suggesting that the “Destiny” phase could be eliminated?

    The only critic that I have is that the AI approach is based upon “positive” only implications. Therefore to use the word “problem” in your article (i.e. paradigm shift from problem to possibilities)seems to be out of context.

    • Luke YoungeLuke Younge says:

      Dear Patricia
      Thank you for your great comment! Your question about Destiny phase being eliminated is an insightful one that I don’t know the answer to. My gut instinct is no – keeping it as a distinct phase is helpful in the process. However thinking of it as continued discovery dream and design is a useful point that many, and Frank Barrett in particular, have made.

      And thank you for the critique. Indeed on reading what I wrote I can see it could be misunderstood – The point here is that while appreciative inquiry is often used as a process tool, it is also (primarily) a paradigm shift – from a problem/deficit based view to a strengths-based one. I had written that in a kind of shorthand, so I have now amended the article – Is that more helpful?

  6. FFritz says:

    Dear Luke, that’s the best thing I’ve read so far about the Destiny-Phase and it feels so congruent with our approach. Jane M. Watkins, Diana Whitney and other writers should integrate that into their next rev. book edtions.

    • Luke YoungeLuke Younge says:

      Dear Fritz
      Thank you so much for your amazing feedback! I’m simultaneously thrilled and humbled to read your words.

  7. SStephen Davis says:

    What a fantastic and eloquently written article! Having recently experienced the drain in energy at a recent local government implementation workshop your explanation makes perfect and real sense. We actually elected to stop the workshop at that point and came back the following day prepared to discuss more about what was already being implemented. And going back to discover strengths and values. When one builds on existing actions people are more energised than overwhelmed by a seemingly endless list of new tasks. At that point you can then invoke the free choice principle (which in essence is described by the last section of your article. Great stuff Luke. More please!

    • Luke YoungeLuke Younge says:

      Thank you for your wonderful feedback Stephen, and I am so happy to hear about your success in bringing the appreciative approach into that workshop!

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