What can we learn from consultants that make miracles happen? (revised)

The longer a man’s fame is likely to last, the longer it will be in coming.

Arthur Schopenhauer

This post is about miracle consultants in the realm of organizational behaviour.  First, I shall start with a few words about miracle consulting. Pretty much in the same way that man invented God, insatiable needs have invented miracle consulting.

I myself used a series of miracle consultants when my late wife was very ill. We went from one miracle consultant to another, until she died. One consultant analysed finger nails, another touched her feet and another waved his hands over her stomach. I felt like a character in one of Camus’ novels; I was doing something I did not believe in, but I did it “nevertheless”.

There is a huge market to address needs which cannot be satisfied! This is the context of the miracle organizational consultant.

There are many types of consultants to be found all over organizations, who often at cross-purposes or in a non-coordinated fashion, due to turf wars and politics. Training hires “skill trainers”; HR hires (compliant)vendors to implement people processes and non-strategic changes, while  senior management hires strategic consultants and/or people who they have trusted for many years. These consultants often feel threatened by miracle consultants, but there is nothing to fear. There are no miracles.

These miracle consultants are either hired by the CEO, or the Board may have “inserted” these consultants in the “spirit of cronyism” . The miracle consultant comes like a bird, flies over, dumps, and flies off.

The miracle consultant has a magic bullet, a series of buzzwords, false hope and a satchel of promises. They may be called organizational architects, organizational magicians, organization energizers, organizational monks and “organizational free thinkers”. These folks charge a very large fee to elaborate truths and insights.

Here is a bit of context which may allow us to understand the appearance and disappearance of these consultants.

1) There is magic to be found in the addictive quick fix which the miracle consultant promises.

2) Often these miracle consultants “blame” something/someone else and absolve the CEO from responsibility.

3) These wonder consultants often have built up such a brand name that senior management believes that “they cannot be wrong”.

Miracle consultants disappear very quickly. The messiah is proclaimed false very soon after a few sermons. A lecture, a month, or until the second or third invoice arrives.

The appearance of miracle consultants often indicate deep despair, stupidity and denial at the top, or all three.

Share Button

Essence of the difference between OD and Change Management

The goal of this post is to pinpoint the essential  difference between Change Management and OD.

Let us take as an example the implementation of shift from a functional structure (F) to a matrix structure  (M)

Change management puts together a plan to “manage” the change, migrating various components like roles, responsibilities and processes systematically from F to M. The role of the change management is akin to the PMO of the “change” project, which has a beginning and an end. The change plan has milestones and deliverables, which can be measured.

The Change Manager will report periodically to the CEO on progress. The CEO will see in the Change Manager  a key staff function.

The only problem is that change cannot be “managed” in such a manner, albeit the very marketable pitch than change management has developed and sold to managers interested in apparent control.

The major focus of the OD practitioner is to remove resistance to change,  in order to enable a constant and ongoing dynamic reconfiguration of the way work gets done in response to external threats.  For OD, the critical success factor is ability of the organization to serve as a “pliable platform” to effectively adapt.  Thus, F to M  is a window of opportunity to develop organizational flexibility. Obstacles that should be addressed to gain organizational flexibility include power, politics, “what’s in it for me”, lack of involvement, and the whole unseen “underworld” of assumptions that staff have about their behaviour.  Once these issues are dealt with, the “change” will happen. Change management may want to deal with these issues, but do not know how.

The OD consultant will constantly focus management on dealing with the hidden dynamic which hinders flexibility. The Change Manager will appease management by showing everything is under control.

The CEO sees the change manager as a partner and then as a buffoon, blaming the CM for resistance.

The CEO sees  the OD consultant as a pain in the ass at times, and not easy to manage, Yet via trust and dialogue, the CEO and OD consultant serve as midwife to change, as melting resistance enables the organization to unfold, once again.

For the OD practitioner, Change Management models and formats are  great tool kits to have. They are highly marketable and add apparent effectiveness.

After several years on the road, most change managers agree with OD about the underlying dynamic, but they are not in the plumbing business.

Share Button

3 questions OD consultants are asked before a process starts.

During the process which proceeds the initiation of an OD project, it is not uncommon to be asked questions for which there are no easy answers, since OD is neither a commodity, nor a standard professional service.

Here are three frequent questions, and guidelines for answers.

1) What are the milestones of progress in this project?

The project has  no traditional “milestones, because it is a process that we are undertaking and not a project. There process has three distinct stages. The first stage is a diagnosis. The second stage is presenting an action plan, and the third stage is implementation.

2) If that is the case, how can progress be measured?

An ongoing dialogue takes place between us all the time to ensure we are making progress, as opposed to us “measuring” something at any given interlude.

In organizations, lots of stuff which is measured may not be indicative of real progress; yet many things which cannot be measured are critical for an organization to make progress.

If there is progress, we will all know it; if we are stuck, it will be very evident.

3) Why don’t you work for a success fee?

Well, the organization may not do what I recommend, and perhaps rightly so. So I cannot be measured that way!

This process is a joint effort, not my success or my failure. And the organization needs to cooperate with the process, not control it via a success fee.The very process itself is designed to move the organizations away from such a mode of behaviour.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

Share Button

Is OD hard to explain?

In my last post on OD as a commodity, I received a comment stating that OD is  difficult to market, since it is hard to explain what OD actually does. In parallel, Change Management is far more “explainable” and user friendly for the client…..except that Change Management often does not deliver.

This comment deserves some elaboration.So this post will relate to the difficulty of marketing OD, and what I propose as a strategy to promote your practice.

I believe that OD is not a commodity and not marketable as such. Were OD to be a commodity, marketing OD would be easier. There are marketing experts who know how to package commodities and lessen “shelf time”. (Unsold hours are shelf time in the OD world). In many cases, these marketing experts succeed in perfuming the pig, passing off stones as pearls, as is the case with change management programs.

OD is a professional service and can be promoted as such. However, OD  has uncomfortable truths:

  • We cannot predict when an projects ends successfully.
  • We need to confront management all the time.
  • In some cases, we cannot work with the focal point with whom clients want us to work (HR).
  • Our output cannot be measured in KPI’s or by procurement folks.
  • You need a long term investment in OD to see results.

The above makes OD unmarketable in the traditional ways that professional services are promoted. So how do you spread the word and promote your practice?  Here are a few guidelines.

1-Do good work. This is by far the greatest thing you can do to promote your practice. The more “non commodity” OD work is, the more traction is created that will spread the word.

2-In OD, big is bad.Stay small to leverage your advantage and use your knowledge for clients. Experienced consultants need to spend their time with clients;  if the experienced consultants are running big businesses, their time is invested in teaching people who often do not meet client’s expectation.

3-Network with people you have worked with and maintain relationships. Look at your relationships like the only sales tool you have.

4-Price high. High prices sell-as long as you deliver value.

5-Stop trying to explain what OD is. Tell stories of what you have done, and have other clients explain the value you have brought.

To wrap up….this winter albeit a flu shot, I had a very violent case of the flu which knocked  the crap out of me, despite the fact that I am in very good shape. It took me a month to get back to my daily running. My doctor’s advice was not to focus on running, but focus on breathing exercises and stretching….then the ability to run will return-as it did. So…focus on doing great work and meeting people, and let’s put aside explaining our profession as a commodity.

Follow me @AllonShevat

Share Button