Traditional systems development research largely adopts a negative view and focuses on failures. In contrast, this study adopts a positive approach to improve current practices. We report from an action research project at a small software firm, TelSoft, in which we applied appreciative inquiry to develop information technology (IT) project management skills. The inquiry process offers two contributions. First, we demonstrate how appreciative principles and the four steps of initiating, inquiring, imagining, and innovating were used to learn about existing strengths and share visions of possible futures. Acknowledging that humans under these circumstances respond constructively to change, this led to a new development program for IT project managers. Second, we adapt 'win-win contracts' to develop generative metaphors for the core knowledge areas: scope, time, cost, and quality management. The resulting metaphors are grounded in the particular context at TelSoft and informed by Theory W. The paper presents the appreciative inquiry process in detail and discusses the results in relation to the IT project management literature.