Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

A Story of Nutrimental in Brazil: How Wholeness, Appreciation, and Inquiry Bring out the Best in Human Organization

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

A Story of Nutrimental in Brazil: How Wholeness, Appreciation, and Inquiry Bring out the Best in Human Organization

Article excerpt

What in the world is "wholeness"? Physicist, David Bohm sought to understand wholeness. He wrote: "The English word health is based on the Anglo-- Saxon word `hale', meaning `whole'; that is: to be healthy is to be whole." And he concluded, "...All of this indicates that man has sensed always that wholeness is an absolute necessity to make life worth living. Yet, over the ages he has generally lived in fragmentation." (Bohm, D. 1980)

What in the world is wholeness? According to Daft and Lengel, integrity is wholeness. They wrote that becoming whole and complete means that the elements of higher self - compassion, honesty, and generosity to others - are developed and expressed. And that being whole requires the subtle and the strong force in one's self to be integrated. Another way to consider wholeness as integrity is to understand wholeness as the capacity to be and to feel connected to a larger whole, to something beyond oneself - a capacity to feel a sense of real accomplishment when one has contributed to the whole.

Wholeness as a desire, wholeness as integrity and yet, we see all around us examples of our propensity to live in fragmentation. Wholeness can then be understood as a complex paradox in human's life. We are all in search for completeness, and therefore we aim to make our organizations, our relationships, our lives, and ourselves whole. Nevertheless, our natural tendency is to divide, fragment and differentiate. This is true in organizational life: fragmented, divided and separated in departments, divisions, and business units. But what happens when there is innovative strategic planning and decision making that brings the whole organization, the entire system together in the same room? Can this experience bring wholeness? Can this enhance the possibility of integrity and bring out the best of human organizations?

A Story of a System: What is Nutrimental?

Nutrimental Industria a Comercio de Alimentos S.A. is a manufacturer of healthy food products, located in Curitiba, State of Parana, in Brazil. It is a privately held Brazilian corporation, founded in 1968, that produces a wide range of food products targeting several different markets. It employs approximately 700 people and had revenues of US$ 70 million in 1997.

In 1968, when Nutrimental was founded, its purpose was to manufacture bean soup and powder mashed potatoes to supply a public school lunch program from the Brazilian Government. Twenty years later with revenues of US$ 60 million it had a variety of products and a considerable technological, economical, and organizational capacity to not only take the leadership in supplying governmental programs, but also to expand into the consumer market.

In the early 1990's, Nutrimental decided to create a diversification strategy called `Nova Era' (New Era), that aimed at reducing the dependency from government programs, as well as, enhancing the organizational culture that would be in position to identify, develop and implement the necessary changes for the new Nutrimental.

In 1991, during the implementation of the New Era project, all government programs collapsed with the government canceling orders. From 1992 to 1995 Nutrimental had very limited working capital.

In 1997 the organization decided to face boldly their need to go through a complete transformation. The leadership contacted us at Case Western Reserve University and invited us to work with them as they focused their goals on the development of a workshop that would help the organization regain its confidence and become more competitive. Appreciative Inquiry (A.I.) was the approach selected to help them reach their objective. We worked with them to launch a two-year project that started with an "Appreciative Inquiry Summit" and helped the organization identify its best practices and most important strengths.

Movements Into Wholeness: Whole System Dialogue

Figure 1 is a diagram of an Appreciative Inquiry flow. …

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