Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises: XIII. Assessment in the Enterprise Cycle (Part Two)
Third, an appreciative approach to diagnostic evaluation requires a process of progressive focusing. Successively more accurate analyses of causes and effects in the program are being engaged. Since a diagnostic evaluation is intended primarily for the internal use of the program’s staff and advisors, it must be responsive to the specific questions these people have asked about the program. Typically, a chicken-and-egg dilemma is confronted: the questions to be asked often will become clear only after some initial information is collected. Thus, a diagnostic evaluation is likely to be most effective if it is appreciative in focusing on a set of increasingly precise questions.
Appreciative focusing also takes place in a progressive manner during the information collection phase of the diagnostic evaluation process. As the developer of a diagnostically oriented procedure called “illuminative evaluation,” Malcolm Parlett describes appreciative focusing as a three-stage information collection process. (Parlett and Deardon, 1977; see also description and critical analysis offerd by Worthen et all, 1977, pp. 158-159; and Scriven, 1991, p. 190).
During the first stage (Parlett and Dearden, 1977, p. 17):
. . . the researcher is concerned to familiarize himself thoroughly with the day-to-day reality of the setting or settings he is studying. In this he is similar to social anthropologists or to natural historians. Like them he makes no attempt to manipulate, control or eliminate situational variables, but takes as given the complex scene he encounters. His chief task is to unravel it; isolate its significant features; delineate cycles of cause and effect; and comprehend relationships between beliefs and practices, and between organizational patterns and the responses of individuals.
The second stage involves the selection of specific aspects of the program for more sustained and intensive inquiry. The questioning process in the second stage of an illuminative evaluation becomes more focused and, in general, observations and inquiry become more directed, systematic and selective. During the third stage, general principles that underlie the organization and dynamics of the program are identified, described and, as a result, appreciated. Patterns of cause and effect are identified within the program, and individual findings are placed in a broader explanatory context.