Home Societal / Political Behavioral Economics Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–II. First and Second Order Change

Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–II. First and Second Order Change

18 min read

William Bergquist and Agnes Mura

Before proceeding with an analysis of four models of consultation in the next few essays, we will pause and reflect in this essay on the nature of change itself—examining in particular two different kinds (or levels) of change. We identify these two kinds of change as “first order” and “second order.” We begin this analysis with a brief interchange between Fred and Alan.

Fred: “Why don’t you just try harder.”

Alan: “Would you get off my back! I’m already working as hard as I can! It just won’t work.”

Fred: “O.K., maybe we should add one or two more people to your crew.”

Alan: “No! That would only make things worse.  I would have to devote all of my time to training these new guys.”

Fred: “Well, I give up . . . what do you think could be done?”

Alan: “I don’t know . . . but I’m getting desperate . . . I guess like you must feel. Maybe we need to change the goal . . . be a little less ambitious. Or maybe we’ve taken on the wrong job . . . maybe our division is simply unable to meet this goal. Or even more basically, maybe we’ve approached this problem in an entirely wrong way.”

This discussion between Fred and Alan is typical of those that occur in many organizations from time to time. A problem resists solution. More (or less) of the same thing is tried with no results. People try harder or they ease off a bit. No difference. More money is thrown in or a significant amount of money is pulled out of the project—still no appreciable effect.

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