Organizational Consultation XV Appreciative Consulting Within the Domain of Intentions
An appreciative perspective regarding organizational intentions suggests that the founding structure and dynamics of an organization should remain intact throughout the life of the organization and provide the essential ingredients for any statement of intention. These founding styles or patterns are central to the creation of an appreciative organization. These styles and patterns remain the prevalent means by which an organization brings in new resources and information from the outside world. They also inform the way in which the organization works with these resources and information in order to produces something of value that is subsequently exported to the external world. These intention-based processes define and reside in all organization—and are to be found in all living systems, whether or not they are of human design.
Contemporary organizations of the emerging postmodern era are the inverse of modern organizations with regard to both intentions and boundaries. Modern organizations typically have clear boundaries, but unclear intentions, whereas postmodern organizations usually have unclear or changing boundaries and, therefore, must have clear and consistent intentions if they are to remain vital. While many established modern organizations will survive in the postmodern era because of their substantial resources and reputation, the postmodern organization must be clear about its intentions if it is to survive. An organization that defines a specific product or service as something needed by at least a small segment of society is likely to be successful in our chaotic, postmodern era. Conversely, many modern organizations that lived for many years with unclear or shifting intentions are likely to fail in the volatile world of the 21st Century.
The Intentional Organization
A clear organizational statement of intentions comes in many forms. Some organizations identify a set of guiding principles. The leaders of other organizations focus on mission or on the dreams of the organization’s founders. Yet other leaders issue a statement of vision or formulate a statement of values. We propose that all of these ways to identity and articulate the intentions of the organization are valid and invaluable to the organization and its members. We tend to focus in our own consultative work on four aspects of organizational intention: mission, vision, values and purposes. In essence, it seems that the leaders of successful 21st Century organizations must know who they are, what business they are in and where they are headed in the future. These intentional organizations can be much more flexible with regard to boundaries. They can readily establish their own market niches and shift with the changing nature of the market, while preserving a specific identity and purpose.