An Exploration of Processes of Mutual Recognition in Organization Development Initiatives from the Standpoint of a Practising Consultant
What usually goes unaddressed in the consultancy literature is an exploration of how consultants make sense of their contributions in particular when they come to work in politically laden contexts. Resulting conflictual debates with clients and colleagues severely influence how their advice is responded to. Against this background, consultants’ ability to determine and predict future outcomes of their work is hardly problematized. Additionally, consultants are mutually dependent on both colleagues and clients. This dependency underpins power differentials and the struggle which arises when these are contested can often take violent forms, such as misrecognition, humiliation or public shaming. The central argument put forward in this thesis is that tolerating (the potential for) misrecognition and/or for violence when goals are not met or when power fluctuates is an important, yet rarely mentioned, aspect for being recognized as a consultant. These aspects deserve as much attention as the often ideal-typical forms management consulting is said to take in the mainstream management literature because they speak to the irremediably incomplete and rather probabilistic nature of consultants’ advice, and the multiplicity of (often not anticipated or undesired) meanings their work evokes. In order to make sense of the flux and flow of organizational activity, the plethora of responses such activity calls out and its attendant ambiguities are considered and critically reflected upon. The theory of complex responsive processes of relating (Stacey, 2007, 2010; Griffin, 2002; Shaw, 2002), theories of recognition, (Honneth, 1994, 2008; Kearney, 2003; Ricoeur, 2005), Hegelian dialectics and neo-pragmatist thought (Bernstein, 1983, 1991) are provided as non-orthodox views on human organizing. A perspective is proffered which pays attention to the inchoate, ambivalent and indeterminate dimensions of organizing as a way to make sense of how these simultaneously and paradoxically order, regularize, and normalize human activity. Particular attention will be paid to negotiations which take place in microinteractions to exemplify that it is not pre-planned human cooperation but the intermingling of intentions of people who are mutually dependent on one another which paradoxically gives rise to regular population-wide patterns and spontaneous change. To make sense of what these insights mean for a practising consultant a view is offered where our reflections (thought) on our interactions (practice) at once form and are being formed by one another. An attempt is made to move beyond the practice/theory dualism by taking a pragmatist view which claims that thought and action only ever arise together, thus rendering an understanding of consultative intervention in which thought comes before action idealized and rather dubious. It will be argued that the most important contribution consultants can make is to try to stay radically open, and to try to keep on exploring as long as possible the multiplicity of narratives which constitute the differing perspectives of organizational reality.