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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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The appreciative leader should complement this concern for other group members by sharing personal thoughts and feelings about the issues facing the group. An effective group leader also will encourage members to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings by asking them to share information that has influenced their feelings and viewpoints. They also encourage group members to directly report on rather than just express their own feelings, and to offer alternative solutions to the issues being addressed. In an appreciative group, action proposals are hypotheses to be tested, rather than being fragile treasures to be protected against the competitive and insensitive assault of other group members.

Problem Solving

When an effective group is confronted with a problem to solve, members of the group typically take a deficit stance. They first ask: “Who is responsible. Who do we blame?” According to Scott and Jaffe: [ii]

When a group or even a pair of people encounters a problem, the first instinct is to find out who is to blame. Somebody or something is blamed, and everyone feels less uncomfortable—except, of course, the person blamed. Bust what does blame accomplish? Not very much.

The second set of questions a group poses, once the blaming is done, typically are more constructive: “What do we want to see changed?” and “How did things get the way they are now?” The first of these questions concerns targets and intentions. Members of the group want to know about the desired state. What will make them and other members of the organization happy? The second question concerns situation and information. The group members want to know about the current conditions: What’s now going on and what are the reasons for it? Before any problem can be solved, we must know about both the current situation and the desired target; for any problem involves a discrepancy between the way things are now (current situation) and the way someone would like them to be (desired target). When we analyze a problem, we have determined the extent and nature of this discrepancy. When we solve a problem, we have identified one or more proposals that will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, this discrepancy.

Problem analysis and problem solving are complex processes that always involve the interplay between information, intentions, and ideas. Problem analysis involves three components: (1) identification of the target, (2) assessment of the current situation (generation of valid and useful information), and (3) determination of the causes of the problem being confronted, based on a comparison between the situation and target. Problem solving similarly involves three components: (1) generation of proposals, (2) evaluation and selection of alternative proposals, based on the situational analysis, and (3) monitoring of the selected proposals based on the identified target.

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