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Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach III Four Models of Consultation

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William Bergquist and Agnes Mura

When initiating any organizational consulting initiative, a practitioner carries with him or her a set of often untested assumptions about the way in which the client (an individual. an organizational unit, or an entire institution) might best be served. He or she also carry assumptions about the nature of the relationship that should be established between the person or group asking for assistance (the client) and the person or group providing assistance (the consultant). Powerful (though often unacknowledged) models exist that dictate the nature of questions that are asked within a specific scientific discipline, as well as the nature of solutions that are generated and tested. These models tend to be self-validating in that the methods and criteria used for evaluation of the model are themselves part of and fully compatible with this model. As a rule, the model is reformed significantly only by someone who can stand outside the model and question its validity. Only the outsider can readily declare that “the king [model] is indeed naked!”

Consultation and Models

Most of the strategies and assumptions one could call “models” of organizational consultation seem to differ from one another in the ways in which one assists one’s client and in terms of the basic assumption which a consultant or human/organizational resource developer makes about change. One can penetrate into the approaches being taken by organizational consultants to discover differences among (1) those practitioners who help to bring about a specific change in the client system, (2) those practitioners who are advocates of, but do not initiate, a specific change in the system, (3) those practitioners who advocate no specific change but begin with the assumption that change in the system is required, and (4) those practitioners who neither advocate a specific change nor begin with the assumption that the system needs to change.

We turn now to a fuller description of our four models of consultation. Each of the four models holds a set of assumptions about change, about evolution and revolution, and even about the movement between first and second order change. Each of these four models is appropriate in some setting and creates some major problems in other areas. We will first turn to Model One.

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