Archive for April, 2012

Process Consultation

April 29, 2012

Lou Carter This is a response to your Linkedin comment about engaging employees might wish to use “process consultation.”

Well you and are both learned the importance of Process Consultation directly from our pal Ed Schein.

Here is a wonderful concise explanation of what it is. We credit Jim for writing this. His contact information is included
You can also call us.
(617) 536-2505
Or you can even write.
Jim Murphy, Chief Learning Officer
Management 2002
472 Beacon Street #2
Boston MA 02115

21st Century Process Consultation
Process consulting is a late 20th century practice. Classically espoused in the works of Edgar Schein (especially Process Consultation Revisited), this model is based on consultation as a “helping relationship”. The mutual nature of this relationship, with the consultant working with and not for the client is a keynote of the process consultation philosophy.

Process consultation is generally contrasted with expert consultation and is frequently seen by its advocates as a superior style of management consulting. In practice, however, almost all management consulting involves a mix of expert and process models, with the consultant frequently shifting roles to meet the needs of the situation. Schein himself notes the need for such fluidity in practice.
Be this as it may, process consultation certainly has many strengths. As compared to experts who bring packaged solutions that may have general validity, but in fact are not the best prescription for the your organization, process consultation has the powerful advantage of being by its nature specifically tailored to your situation. Some other ways in which this model of management consulting provides clear and undeniable benefits are as follows:
Partnership between client and consultant. The consultant and the client act as equals. The client provides the knowledge of the organization’s nature, business, and issues; and the consultant provides the knowledge of the techniques, ways of thinking, and practices that can solve the problem. The partnership model ensures against false solutions that may be trendy, clever, and wholesome, but are not in fact fully applicable and sufficiently relevant to the particular organizational development issue.
Proper maintenance of mutual responsibility. The client owns the problem and determines the solution. The consultant helps the client to see the issues and find what needs to be done. By not imposing a point of view, the process consultant ensures that a real solution, not an attractive but impermanent fix, is obtained.
Increased capacity for lessons learned. The “masked rider” consultant who provides a silver bullet may be widely honored and cheered by all upon riding off into the sunset. But too commonly the ammunition doesn’t last, and someone has to be called in again. By providing help that learning-based, process consultation ensures increased ability by the client to continue to deal with the situation.
Better fit with current organizational needs. In the process consultation model, the concept of a learning organization is second nature. The sharing of problem diagnosis and resolution leads to shared vision. The expert consultant may have a toolkit of best practice methods, but the process consultant will ensure that the tools which are employed will best fit the organization’s needs and interests.
As we enter the 21st century, in which constant change is the norm and in which continual improvement is a necessity, process consultation itself will undergo development and modification. Indeed, given that the present model has existed since the 1970s, one can reasonably say it is time for second generation form of process consultation.

This development will process upon the same lines that plot the drive of all organizational change and development. As new forms of organizations and new interactions between organizations occur, process consultation will be applied in different ways to meet new goals. Basically, one can extrapolate the strengths of this model to 21st century conditions in the following ways:

Orientation toward ongoing ability and learning. The focus of process consultation is on solving the problem. But in a world of constant change and development, there will always be problems and particular solutions will never be lasting. In the second generation form of process consultation, there more be more emphasis on problem solving ability rather than problem solving.
More involvement and participation. It is a whole system world; processes that look at and employ only one part of the organization are insufficient. The new generation of process consultants will increasingly work with internal consultants, teams, and all levels of the organization. By building up facilitation and consultation skills in the organization there will be development that means it is able to meet new challenges and conditions, not just those which initiated the consultancy.
Wider application of techniques and methods. As everyone becomes involved in all phases of the organization and everyone becomes responsible for the organization’s development, there will be a need for more people to know and to use more principles and more practices in more situations. For example, dialogue, a staple of the process consultation effort, will be used not simply in special situations or just for team-building purposes but will be a tool of organization and not just of the consultant, resulting in dialogic communication as part of the organizational culture.
Links to mission, values and vision. If a 21st century organization does not know its mission, if it does not have strong values, or if it does not have a compelling vision, it will die. The 21st practice of process consultation will increasingly make use of these variables in analysis, diagnosis, and prescription for organizational development. The goal of the consultancy will not simply be to fix a situation but the creation of a better organization.

Process consultation will never be the only form of management consulting. But in many ways it is particularly suited to 21st century needs and conditions. As a result, application of the process consultation model may be relatively more common, and a second generation form of process consultation may become more and more significant. Consultants who combine subject expertise with process helpfulness may be the ones most suitable for 21st century organizations, but the need for process consultation will be enduring.

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