In an appreciative-oriented consulting process, attention must be paid to development of the human capital in the organization. The objective in this fourth consultative strategy is to encourage the acquisition and full development of skills, knowledge, and aptitudes of employees and others associated with the organization that are compatible with and help to further the values, mission, goals and aspirations of the organization.
Some organizational leaders are likely to view any appreciative approach to the development of human resources as an oxymoron, like “swift justice” or “carefree home ownership.” How can a program be both developmental and appreciative? When someone needs developing, doesn’t that mean they are deficient in some way? How can one appreciate the strengths of another person while also planning their further development? I would propose that these two terms, appreciation and development, are not contradictory. They are quite complimentary. Development is not just about acquiring new skills and knowledge; it is also about nourishing and building on existing strengths and enriching one’s own understanding of self and other people. This is a key concept in engaging an appreciative strategy of consultation.
A colleague of mine, Bob Shukraft, has suggested that during the first half of life we develop by expanding and extending the use of new skills and knowledge. This concept of development does focus on deficits. Furthermore, this focus is quite appropriate given that deficits are inevitably associated with youth and the processes of maturation. However, Shukraft suggests that a different meaning should be assigned to the term development during the second half of life. Development now refers to shifting priorities and perspectives. We don’t develop by gaining new knowledge and skill; rather, we develop by seeing the world in new ways and shifting our personal values, needs and ways of engaging other people. Most people working in organizations are mature, accomplished adults; it is imperative, therefore, that the second, appreciative model of development be given as much attention as the youthful, deficit-oriented model.