Consider the unwitting…

Consulting Skills – Post 2

One of the things that strikes me from this week’s reading on consulting is how important is is to really get clear on who the client is and what the issue/problem is. Sometimes it seems clear, but sometimes I can see it’s not so and if you don’t take time to get clear on who the client is, then it can lead to confusion down the road.

In our assignment for “Who is the client?” I really began to see how important it is to keep in consideration unwitting clients as well as ultimate clients. Particularly, it seems unwitting clients may be easy to overlook. One of the challenges I can see as an internal consultant is that a client may come and ask for help in working with an unwitting client. If there is no intention to involve the ‘unwitting client’, then it could turn into a political situation. In this regard, it would be a subtle challenge for the consultant to keep a neutral and not take sides. One of the most challenging things is to help the client see their contribution to the issue/problem. There often seems to be a tendency to look outside for cause and put blame elsewhere.

I can see that it’s really important to establish a equilibrium in the relationship and build the trust. I have found that only after the sense  of equilibrium and trust have evolved, is it possible to confront a situation directly. It seems important that when confronting this is done in a respectful way.

Well, I keep coming up to where things sound good in theory, but putting them into practice always seem to be another matter… However, I do think it helps to pursue clarity about what sound theory is and then it’s possible to reflect on the difference between theory and practice…

There’s an expression from a person of wisdom that comes to mind, “Right understanding precedes right action.” As such, then right understanding would have to be in accord with the personal values and vision or personal philosophy that one chooses to adopt as a guiding light.


2 Responses to “Consider the unwitting…”

  1. 1 Tim Arnette 21 September 2009 at 10:20 am

    I have an example to set this discussion in practice and not just theory (good concern!). It is unfortunately an example of what not to do, similar to Schein’s example of the unwitting manager who could be impacted by a negative survey of his/her department and then punish the employees involved.

    My situation was some years ago when my project team was contemplating a small, new system. We engaged several others, but we did not realize it impacted the peer of our big boss. This peer, AFTER we had completed the development and were seeking to get it running, found out about our project and stopped it cold, sending us back to the drawing board. It seemd that our project would cause serious harm to some of his data. We needed to redesign the whole project. This was quite a learning experience! But the issue involves accessing your ignorance. When do you know that you know all you need? There just needs to be a concerted effort to involve others with broader knowledge than yours.

    Being in the same organization gives you better smarts on this one. Being a consultant in a new organization all the time teaches you caution.

  2. 2 michelle 27 September 2009 at 8:07 am

    Clarity and equilibrium, these are great concepts to understand as a consultant. I could not agree more about their importance for the consultant. However, the “putting it into practice” does seem to be the issue. You must have the theory, a clear idea of the problem, before you can have the knowledge of how to act. In one of my courses, I end each lecture with a “putting it into practice” exercise and students practice the skills just learned in hopes of reinforcing that new skill. My goal is for them to develop a familiarity and competence in the skill, but true proficiency cannot occur until the task is being practiced regularly. I felt a lack of proficiency in making our mock phone calls. We discussed the theory behind the phone calls, the purpose and what could be accomplished during the call. When we were reading the chapter on inquiry, the questioning and sequence of questioning seemed so obvious. We now had the tools to make the call, but you are so right, knowing and doing are two different things. The practice was helpful and gave us confidence for making our real phone calls. It helped us develop our skills. Dr. Carter has often mentioned in class that consulting is a skill and we are still in the development stage. Thank you Jonathan, you were a great partner on the phone and it helped when I spoke to my potential client last week.

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