Organizational Consultation XV Appreciative Consulting Within the Domain of Intentions
Intention expansion might be among the most important and long-lasting forms of organizational change, though we are only now beginning to recognize its value. Corporate executives, ministers, teachers and social workers are taken on rafting trips, during which they listen to and participate in readings from literature, from tribal lore or from their own journals. They explore new dimensions of their identity, and, as a result, forge new intentions, as well as clarify existing ones. The new intentions are highly beneficial in preparing a young man or woman for new career challenges and for the frustrations and ambiguities of organizational leadership.
Our personal intentions are the highest priorities in our lives: parenthood, financial security, adventure, affection, spiritual formation. Our organizational intentions are similarly of highest importance—our ultimate concerns from an organizational perspective. Over time, these intentions provide the underlying structure and meaning of our individual life, and our collective organizational life. We often use terms like obligations, values and even mission in a cavalier manner. We aren’t really serious about the commitments inherent in a statement of personal or organizational intentions. We use these statements for public relations purposes. We use them to win over a customer, negotiate a new deal or fashion a major merger. An appreciative organization, by contrast, takes its commitments seriously. It honors the process of thoughtful engagement in the identification of fundamental commitments regarding mission, vision, values and purposes.
Building on the work of many behavioral scientists and educators who have focused on the nature of personal and organizational intentions, we specifically propose that an appreciative organization consistently engages intentions that are characterized by seven features: