Reflecting on Organizational Successes

September, 2019

A year after taking a new library management position, I devoted a significant portion of a meeting to a collective reflection on recent organizational successes. This exercise was inspired by reading from Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005). Essentially, I designed the procedure to help my division’s employees recognize and celebrate positive accomplishments, identify the factors that enabled such successes, and inspire them to achieve greater successes in time to come. I began the exercise by asking participants to reflect on their activities over the previous month. I provided a set of prompts to elicit recall of examples of successful performance (see below). Then I called for volunteers to share their thoughts with the group in response to each prompt. Most of the 20 or so people who were present chose to speak up. To wrap up the exercise, we discussed the conditions that had enabled us to achieve various successes and asked how we might cultivate those conditions so as to promote future successes.

Within the past month, did you and/or others …

  1. Learn something that will make you more effective at work?

  2. Try something new, even if it wasn’t fully successful?

  3. Stop doing something that was ineffective?

  4. Improve a work process?

  5. Solve a problem?

  6. Complete a project (or reach a significant milestone in one)?

  7. Create or produce something that you’re proud of?

  8. Have a rewarding interaction with a co-worker or customer?

  9. Save the organization some money?

  10. Receive a donation or revenue on behalf of the library or the university?

What factors caused or enabled these instances of success?

  • Diligence

  • Persistence

  • Organization

  • Communication

  • Planning

  • Openness to change

  • Coaching

  • Autonomy

  • Training

  • Learning from experience

  • Other learning

  • Freedom to try/fail

  • Collaboration within organization

  • Partnerships with entities outside organization

How can we cultivate these conditions in order to promote future successes?


Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A positive revolution in change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Want to learn more about appreciative inquiry and related topics?

Click the buttons below to see relevant entries in my bibliography, SmithFile.