Archive for December, 2009

Philosophy of Practice – Consulting

Consulting Skills – Philosophy of Practice

What can I say about my philosophy of practice for consulting? Hmmm… There is really so much I think that I’ve learned about consulting this semester with the study of Block and Schein, class discussion, and our projects themselves. But what can I say about the values and assumptions I now hold about consulting?

One of the first and perhaps simplest things is that a consultant-client relationship is a helping relationship. I may have expert knowledge, but in all likelihood I do not know the client’s system and culture to fully asses the situation. I will need the insight and help of the client to define the  problem and help me discover the situation and collect the data.  I’m also not so interested, for the most part, in becoming just an extra pair of hands to get something done for someone else that they didn’t want to do. Really being of help is not such an easy thing to do. So much of my own biases, beliefs, and assumptions can sneak into a situation unsuspectingly and skew the data, or analysis, or maybe the recommendation.

collaboration_babesIn this regard, another thing that strikes me is that it is the client who owns the problem and the solution. And as a result of this, I have to figure out a way to help work with them so the problem gets solved, permanently, if possible. That will come if the client is committed to the solution. And, the client will be committed if they are involved in the whole consultation process on a collaborative basis (50/50,  client/consultant) as much as possible, from first defining the problem, to planning and doing data collection, to analyzing the data and making recommendations for implementation.

And this way of working will take some skills or approaches that are not  so much in practice or rather not ones we have an opportunity to readily learn in all of the learnin’ we’ve done. The main things I’m thinking of are inquiry and dialogue. Inquiry is simple in concept – just listen actively and maybe give a few prompts, or ask some exploratory questions. And then there’s confrontive inquiry. That’s a bit more risky, but I can see the value in it. I think the key to this is that the confronting is through asking a question to encourage the client to think in an alternate way about the subject at hand. And then there’s dialogue, really having an open conversation where i suspend, for a while, my judgments and biases, and check to see how I’m reacting to what the speaker is saying..

What else?

Helping, collaborative, authentic, curious, inquiring, in dialogue, build trust, feedback when asked or open, maintaining respect, accessing my ignorance, what does the client want? What do I as a consultant want from the client? if I don’t ask, it probably won’t happen just by chance…

understand resistance – it’s mostly just control or vulnerability issues…, confront it and be silent, yes, be silent…

look at how the problem is being managed…

how’s this for an organized, systematic philosophy? And refer to Block, and Schein whenever needed. otherwise, ask somebody – share the problem…

don’t worry, you’re going to make mistakes, that’s part of being flawless, isn’t it? or is the flawless piece that i fess up to my mistakes with the client and see what to do next? be authentic… be authentic… and be authentic…

Engage, get everybody in the room for dialogue, otherwise, it’s less likely to really happen.

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