Organizational Consultation XV Appreciative Consulting Within the Domain of Intentions
A deficit strategy with regard to organizational intentions is inherently destructive and demoralizing. It begins with the assumption that the current intentions of the organization are somehow inappropriate or invalid, and that the existing culture somehow lacks inherent wisdom. Many management gurus and organizational consultants assume that something new is better than something old and that fresh knowledge and new perspective somehow are better than the traditional wisdom which is deeply embedded in the organization. This deficit model may have worked during the modern era of mechanistic organizations; however, it is inappropriate in a complex and changing 21st Century world of dynamic organizations that are replete with knowledge workers and flexible boundaries.
An appreciative consultant honors the existing patterns and values of the organization, while also encouraging her clients to remain open to newly emerging realities, shifting employee concerns and volatile customer needs. This appreciative strategy needs to be founded on a thoughtful analysis of the organization’s intentions. This analysis must be both historical and contemporary, identifying old as well as new ways in which the mission, vision, values and purposes of the organization are being expressed and engaged. This analysis must also look forward in time. It must anticipate needs and aspirations that are not yet fully realized in the organization. To be truly appreciative in nature, the analysis must focus on the clarification and expansion of organizational intentions, rather than being founded in a deficit-oriented attempt to only inculcate new intentions.
The Nature of Organizational Intentions
One can influence the intentions held by individuals and organizations in one of three ways: inculcation, clarification, and expansion. Inculcation occurs when we impose our intentions on other people through persuasion, intimidation, or physical force. By contrast, clarification is a process whereby the intentions already held by an individual or organization become more fully and consistently articulated. The third mode of influence, expansion, occurs when an individual or members of an organization are encouraged to think about their intentions in domains of their individual or collective life that had previously not been explored. While inculcation is based in a deficit-based perspective on individual and organizational intentions, both the processes of intentional clarification and intentional expansion are decidedly appreciative in nature.