Catching your client’s diseases

Arlene and Alan are both consulting the CEO. Arlene focuses on interfaces between silos and Alan on developing flexibility during crisis. The CEO is highly manipulative and gives ambiguous messages to his team; within 4 months, the CEO has Alan and Arlene working at cross-purposes. They have been infected.

Paco is an all-powerful CFO in a company struggling both to improve its product and to cut costs in order to be more attractive to 3 potential buyers. Paco’s boss, the CEO, hires a consultant to improve rapid development processes and innovation. Paco owns Supply Chain/Purchasing; instead of hiring one consultant to do the job, two cheaper consultants are hired: one “innovation coach” and a “rapid development process guru”. Infected.

A fast-growing company sets highly aggressive unachievable goals. Each employee has the work load of three people. Most of the staff are new immigrants struggling to get a green card. Staff works around the clock to put out fires on customer sites. Larry has been hired to help staff “better align their priorities”. After two months, Larry has 7 projects; he has lost focus and the CEO has no time to meet with him. When the company’s revenue slip due to the exchange rate of the Euro, Larry is axed. He had been infected-on-arrival.

A government agency hires a consultant to “update the C level with state of the art knowledge” on management theory and practice. Caught up in a disastrous power struggle between the HR SVP of 25 years tenure and the new Scientific Management SVP, the consultant has written 12 proposals in the last two months and has yet to start work. Infected.

Yes, OD consultants can facilitate change. But they can also become infected by the client during their professional “struggle” and easily become part of the problem.

Some organizations carry some very nasty diseases, which are infectious upon contact.

Prophylactic measures include supervision, periodic project reviews at the CEO level, and peer critique of work.

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