Home Organizational Psychology Assessment / Process Observation Organizational Consultation XIV Generating Information from Outside the Organization: Appreciative Benchmarking

Organizational Consultation XIV Generating Information from Outside the Organization: Appreciative Benchmarking

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On the one hand, startup companies are often in danger of setting goals that are too high, leading to a reliance on luck. High tech firms also tend to be overly ambitious. The e-commerce roller coaster ride provides ample evidence regarding a reliance on luck rather than thoughtful planning. By contrast, large bureaucracies tend to set very low goals. They rely on established practices with a long history of mediocre performance. How does an organizational consultant help their client set goals that are high but realistic? The client can begin by finding out how other organizations have performed on comparable tasks. She can compare her own organization to some of the best ones around, as well as other organizations that operate like her own (if her own organization is not yet among the best). As consultants we can encourage our clients to set goals that some other organizations have already reached, thereby ensuring that our client’s goals are realistic. She also can set goals at a higher level than her organization has currently attained, thereby ensuring that these goals are ambitious.

The now widely-established (but sometimes controversial) strategy called benchmarking can provide the base for this energizing comparison—and this comparison is particularly energizing if the benchmarking is conducted in an appreciative manner and if it evokes dialogue rather than providing direction (Model Four consulting). Benchmarking is a strategy that can be advocated by consultants (Model Two) and can be used as a powerful motivator for major organizational change (Model Three). The benchmarking exercise can even be initiated and conducted by the consultant herself (Model One).  While benchmarking resides primarily in the domain of information, it also provides a bridge between the domain of information and the domain of intentions. It provides the organization with information concerning its current performance level while also ensuring that the intentions have been appropriately set. In addition, an appreciative approach to benchmarking enables members of an organization to identify distinctive strengths and competencies in the organization, while providing guidance in their identification of organizational intentions.

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