The value of hiring pessimist consultants

In my previous post, I suggested that potential clients of OD be  “beware of optimistic, cheery consultants exuding “wow-wow we can do it”.  While there are times when optimism is useful,  a good organizational diagnosis and a solid implementation plan must factor in a lot of not-so-optimistic assumptions about human nature. Wearing “a smile you can see a mile”, is important for the trainers of the world, but not for an organizational consultant who you must trust to tell things as they are.”

In this post I want to spell out 4 more advantages of hiring pessimistic consultants.

1) It is very hard to change organizations.

I am 65 (now 71) years old and I have been “at it” for the longest time. The state of our practice is imperfect and there are many reasons for the massive resistance that change efforts encounter.

A more pessimistic consultant  is aware of the difficulties & will carefully chose where to apply pressure and where to back off. A cheery optimistic “yes we can” consultant will set unrealistic goals and either fail, or wallpaper over a serious problems in order to look good and display apparent effectiveness.

2) Within organizations, the chances are that  both the management team members and a perky HR business partner are promulgating good news, bombarding various management forums with optimistic forecasts/assessments.

The last thing a change program needs is an OD consultant, motivated by fear, to bullshit and play down the challenges that management and HR are ignoring.

3) Optimistic “yes we can” consultants come to be associated with the existing power structure and chances are that the troops will learn to mistrust them. Pessimistic consultants are more cynical, more pragmatic and may been seen as more trustworthy, which is a powerful asset to leverage.

4) Optimistic consultants tend to use “tools”, products and religious dogmas (in the organizational sense) to storm forward. Pessimistic consults generally are more eclectic and use whatever works; they are not in love with tools because in general, they have less rigid “belief” systems.

Here is a link for tips to manage pessimistic staff.

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