If you have read some of our blog entries you might have discovered that we do our organizational development consulting through the lens of complex responsive processes http://www.herts.ac.uk/courses/schools-of-study/business/research/complexity-and-management-centre/complexity-and-emergence-in-organizations.cfm
In addition, my last couple of posts looked at problems I have encountered with the Creative Tension model, eventually causing me to stop using it. This post looks at some of the problems encountered when using the ideology of complex responsive processes and asks how you might deal with them.
One of the key things in working with this ideology is that you are intensely process oriented. By process I mean that you recognize that organizations change and develop through the process of interactions between people and nothing, nothing happens outside of these interactions. This means that my time with a client fits into this process; it is part of the ongoing interactions between people of which I am a part for a relatively short period of time compared to the people that actually work in the organization.
However, the typical expectation of a ‘consultant’s’ time in an organization is for you to be intensely results oriented. If you are with a client for a day, 2 days, even 2 years, most interactions you have are expected to end in some kind of moving forward action, complete with plans, timelines and specific people held accountable. By far the majority of interactions between people in organizations do not end in this way but as a consultant your interactions are expected to. Otherwise you have not done your job!
So the question is how do you balance the fact that you are really just a part of the process of ongoing interactions when the expectations of you are quite different? If you simply say to the key person you are working with that it doesn’t make sense to deliver on their expectations of you you are likely shown the door and your goal of helping the organization quicky comes to an end. If you say that of course you can meet those expectations the same thing usually happens, but you’ve managed to hang around for a period of time.
Another problem I find with this balance is that the mainstream expectations of me have been internalized a fair bit. Although I have worked from a process focus for many years I still feel twinges of discomfort if my time with the client doesn’t end with tight action plans. It still feels like I haven’t done enough, even though I know I have done what is most effective in terms of how I understand organizations to operate. The idea of the ‘hero’ consultant still seems to have its grasp on me somehow or other.
It can be an uncomfortable place to be. I would be interested in the perspectives and experiences of others that may identify with what I have described above and how you deal with it.
Thanks for your input!
Author – Tom