Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–VII. The Consultative Process: Stages 1 and 2
Some consultants believe that the client should always be the entire institution or even “society.” Unfortunately, laudable attempts to identify the greater good of a consultation often lead to major problems of both a practical and ethical nature. First, when the institution is defined as the client, a consultant often gets very little support, very little help with problem definition and little support for ongoing evaluation of the intervention. A consultant is not in any essential, tangible manner connected to the institution. Second, accountability is usually lacking when an institution is defined as client. To whom does the consultant report; upon the basis of what criteria is the performance of the consultant to be evaluated?
Third, arrogance is often inherent in these broader definitions of clientship. Why should the consultant be the one to define what is “good” for the “institution” or for “society”? How is one to define a greater good in a manner that is not subjective and personal. Fourth, there is an ethical issue concerned with the use of an institution’s funds to serve some purpose that may not be of high priority to those in the institution. While a consultant has every right to seek social change in society, this change effort should not be funded and supported by those who do not necessarily advocate the change.
Consultants should not accept any job or work toward any goal that is incompatible with their personal values; nor should consultation be used to promote or perpetuate personal values. Effective consultants will select jobs that they find to be personally — not just financially — rewarding, if they want to avoid disillusionment and professional. “burnout.” However, consultants also should be sensitive to the ways in which personal gratification can distort the definition of a problem or an independent identification of the “appropriate” client for a consultation. Therefore, the consultant should work initially with the entry client concerning the identification of the ongoing client and should continue to reassess this decision with the ongoing client during subsequent stages in the consulting process.