Thursday, June 22, 2006

Personal reflections on Module 2:

I like to think if Chapter 5 as "Imagineering". The idea of taking a concept or thought or idea and putting it in a visual context. It reminds me of a sort of elaborate video game, in which the player has to "imagine" or "visualize" the results of the actions they are about to take. In the case of the gamer and of the consultant, they are both interested in scenarios that result in positive or "successful" results. Having a visual cue of the successful completion of a consulting project, allows the consultant to backwards engineer the appropriate actions to be taken, by whom and when. The successful consultant can get a lot of information from this loose correlation of expectations and arrangements. Furthermore, it is a low risk technique. Imagining and action and ending and then reviewing it and changing the action to acheive a different ending, saves a huge amount of money and time that real implemenation, review and revision would require.

An even higher level skill is to enable the client to visualize the same concept or thought. This makes a two player game. It also allows for cooperation, collaboration, and even competition where it may not now nor ever exist. These practice runs allow both parties to get a grasp of the possibilities and to even brainstorm solutions that might not have otherwise been encountered. The successful visualization allows for all parties who had a glimpse of it to motivate others through their vision. Theoretical questions and answers become a bit more realistic. Perhaps, virtual is a good term to use. Virtual in the sense that were it really to happen, this is the way it would look. Certainly, spelling the specifics of a consultation out in terms of implementation are extremely important, this ability to visualize the end, give the consultant writer a clear vision to write about.

Once a project has acheived a visual status, it's time to start fact-gathering. The next chapter (6) revolves around the preparations necessary to start gathering facts about the end results. In this case, the facts to be gathered have to do with the present state. By knowing where we are now, the consultant gets an idea of how much effort and time, and where such effort and time will need to be spent to get the project done. If we know the present, and the plot actions toward our visualization of completion, then we can break large pieces of activity down into much smaller pieces that can be further reduced until we can start to develop and implement action plans for the entire client operation. I think it is important to recognize that there is also an element of planning involved to gathering this information. The consultant needs to plan and make arrangements with various entities that can give insight into the current environment.

I'd like to suggest that another possible model could be helpful in this data gathering scenario that can actually influence a positive end to the consultancy. I am a long time fan of Appreciative Inquiry or AI . AI uses a simple four step process to get to a similar end result that our author
describes in the text book:
DISCOVER (The identification of organizational processes that work well - sounds like visualizing the current state of an organization or organism, but in this case making a point to find successful and/or positive traits and skills), DREAM (The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future - sound like "visualizing success"?), DESIGN (Planning and prioritizing processes that would get us to our visualized successful state) and DELIVERY/CREATION (The implementation). The major difference (and perhaps its not a difference but instead an attentiveness to something the textbook author largely overlooks) is the focus on asking questions with a positive instead of a negative focus. In AI, the consultant and client work hard at identifying the elements of a program that work or work well, and somewhat disregard the problems elements or things that dont work. The advantage is one of a well motivated work force. Instead of starting out from a position that something or someone is doing something wrong, the focus is on who is doing something right, and how it is done, and how it can be a trait transferred to the rest of the organization.

The two additional readings were about defining consultation and about improving consultative skills by developing a more open or receptive attitude. Both are welcome advise, but I thought they covered information that I am already familiar with.

I found the interviewing project much more stimulating. I did two interview with two somewhat disparate types of consultants. One is very clear in what consultation is, and how he goes about it. In the second interview, I deliberately chose to interview someone whose skill are a bit out of the box. Both turned out to be good interviews and I was again reminded of the power of the human voice to help us visualize things. I want to thank both gentlemen for allowing me to interview them and I hope many of you will listen to the audios (in this blog under "Tale of Two Consultants" or from the projects page.

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