Organizational Consulting XI: Acts of Appreciation
William Bergquist and Agnes Mura
To build further on the analogy offered in the previous essay regarding the potential of energy found in the water accumulated behind a dam, we can release this energy through appreciation. Water in a dam must be channeled and transformed to useable (rather than potential) energy via turbines. Similarly, human capital must be channeled and transformed. There are three domains through which acts of appreciation can channel and transform potential human capital into organizational energy. These three domains are information, intentions and ideas.
The Three Domains
The domain of information is entered by a consultant and client whenever they attempt to find out more about the current condition in which the client find herself. In soliciting information, consultants (using a Model Four consultation strategy) act as researchers, asking questions that can be answered by a systematic collection of information. For example, if a college wants to know which of four academic programs are potentially most attractive to a particular group of prospective students, then a sample of these students might be asked to indicate under what conditions they would be likely to enroll in each of these four programs. The information obtained is valid if the students have been honest, if the right questions were asked and if the sample used was representative of the entire pool of potential students. If the information is valid, then the college should be able to state with some confidence which of the academic programs is most attractive to this population of potential students.
In understanding the current situation, however, consultants and their clients must not only seek information that is valid. They must also seek information that is useful. It must relate to the target that the leader and her team wish to reach. Thus, if the target concerns increased financial viability for a college, then a market survey will be of little use, even if the information obtained were valid. It is only useful if the costs associated with each of the four programs also can be determined, along with the acceptable tuition levels for this population of students regarding each of the four programs. It is surprising to see how often information is collected that relates only marginally to the problem faced by an organization!