Organizational Consultation XV Appreciative Consulting Within the Domain of Intentions
Postmodern organizations with clear intentions are likely to be much more open than modern day organizations to changes in clientele and to moving across previously restrictive boundaries—whether these boundaries are product lines or international borders. Furthermore, in establishing a clear set of intentions, and in dropping their boundaries, postmodern organizations are likely to be more fully responsive to changing technologies, shifting customer needs, and new sources of revenue. They are more likely than are modern day organizations to draw their customers or clients in, across the organization’s boundary, for discussions about and actual design of new products or services.
A bottom-line mentality is typically not appropriate in an appreciative organization—nor does it make much sense in most 21st Century organization. Organizations no longer exist simply to make money for their owners or stockholders. Perhaps they never were solely wealth creating enterprises. This may be one of the most influential and ultimately destructive myths of 20th Century organizations: “Money is everything.” “Show me the cash.” “What’s our bottom line!”
The creation of wealth is an inadequate mission for any organization, especially one with diffuse or highly flexible boundaries. A bottom-line mentality tends to hide or distort the founding or driving purpose of the institution. The bottom line leaves an organization without direction in a rapidly changing world. An organization creates a distinctive statement of intention not by pointing to profitability, but rather by pointing to the direction in which it wishes to go in order to become profitable. Financial viability is essential, especially in a for-profit organization, but it is not a defining purpose. Profit may be essential to the ongoing life of an organization, but it is not the reason for the organization’s existence.
Deficit-Based and Appreciative Perspectives on Intention
Most of the management literature on the setting of organizational goals and objectives is based on a deficit model of organizational life. A deficit strategy is engaged whenever a leader or manager places primary emphasis on establishing new intentions. It is also engaged when someone seeks to inculcate a set of intentions that are not inherently displayed or intimately interwoven with the fundamental culture of the organization. Much of the literature on effective management encourages a manager to “make his mark” on the organization; to firmly establish his own priorities; to convince those who report to him and even those he reports to that his vision for the organization is “the right way to go.” We are taught to be persuasive communicators and internal marketers who influence the identified needs of not only our external customers but also our “internal customers.”