Appreciative Inquiry: ...Speak no evil

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Mads Krogh
  • Lone Nielsen
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
The thesis at hand is rooted in an interest in, and concern regarding organisational development methods that leave little room for critique, or otherwise tries to silence any voice that may oppose matters within, and strategic implementations regarding the organisation, by focusing solely on positive aspects and attitudes of organisational life.

It is no secret that the discourses in which the worker and organisations are situated have changed dramatically in the last century. Supposedly a shift has occurred in how management of the human resource is carried out – i.e. a shift from mistrust, control, confrontation, and problem focus - to dialogue, trust, self management, equality, and solidarity. This shift may come across as beneficial to all the members of the organisation, but in reality it only furthers the individualising, intimisation, and intimidation of the modern worker. Alternatively this thesis suggests a more critical approach to organisational development methods, used to harness and control the human resources within organisations. More specifically it suggests that the political and economical structures within organisations, cannot be conveniently ignored by training the worker to easily adapt, and optimistically adopt positive vocabularies and attitudes, and that 'horizontal organisations' is a notion used by those in control, to subdue and distract the workforce. This thesis is thus set up within the framework of critical management studies, more specifically the Neo-Marxist Labour process theory, and post structuralism represented by the works of Michel Foucault.

The purpose of this thesis is a critical in-depth examination of the organisational development method, Appreciative Inquiry. This analysis thus consists of both a theoretical and practical section. It is the aim first to examine the explicit premises and rationales of the method, by examining how the method is presented in management literature. Secondly the paper will apply a Labour process theoretical and a Foucauldian perspective to the previously identified premises, so that alternative rationales can be formulated. These two analyses will make out the theoretical section of the thesis, and will be followed by the empirical or practical section, in which the aim is to conduct a content analysis on how Appreciative Inquiry is presented and conveyed in different magazines and journals, and whether or not these articles display any critical reflections regarding both the explicit and alternative rationales.

Through the three analyses, this paper argues that Appreciative Inquiry is not just a method for personal and organisational development, but can be viewed as a method that furthers and sustains status quo. While also being yet another control strategy which impedes counter notions, critique or problematization of conditions internal to the organisation. Furthermore the paper concludes that the level of critical reflection in the journals and magazines regarding Appreciative Inquiry, is very poorly represented, which in turn causes further concern, due to the fact that the goal of some of these journals and magazines is to safeguard the interests and welfare of the worker.
Publication date2 Aug 2010
Number of pages75
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 35097626