So here it is, December and another semester has come and gone. It’s hard to believe this semester is over. It seems like only yesterday we were preparing for contract meetings. This semester was filled with contract memos, data gathering, chapter presentations, feedback meetings, and plenty of reflection and discussion.
When the semester began, I was pretty certain that I had never been a consultant. The first question we were asked on the first week of class was if we considered ourselves to be a consultant. I immediately responded with a no. I was no expert on the field and believed I was a learner rather than a consultant. After some thought, and further discussion I realized that I had been a consultant at times. I would later come to realize that I probably was not consulting in the most effective manner. Prior to this class, when someone asked me for help I gave it to them. I never thought to perhaps have them think it through and determine a workable solution on their own. I found myself wanting to do the same thing when I met our client for the process consulting project. As the client began to discuss some of the problems she was facing, my first instinct was to simply say “you should probably learn to delegate.”
Process consulting taught me that its not always best to just provide a solution or a quick fix to a problem. Throughout the semester my partners and I worked with the Red Cross and it wasn’t until the end that I began to realize just what we had been doing all semester. It was such a relief to see our client have her “aha moment.” She was so appreciative and happy to have us help her think her through this. She even said all she needed was someone to get her to take the time to focus on this process. I was so concerned throughout this semester that our client would be disappointed. To my surprise she was very pleased. The majority of my learning this semester I would have to say came from the feedback meeting. That was the moment it all came together. Of course I never would have made it through process consulting without the help of Peter Block and Edgar Schein. Both of the textbooks, while different styles of writing, helped to prepare for each phase of process consulting. I cannot say one was better then the other, although I enjoyed reading Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting more so.
There isn’t one best part of the course, but rather everything combined is what makes this such a learning experience. I could sit here and quote Block and Schein, but that wouldn’t prove that I learned anything until I am able to go out and apply this information. That is exactly what this course allowed me to do, take the knowledge from the readings and discussions and apply it to a real project. I only wish more courses would allow for these opportunities. So I guess I should wrap this up before I continue to ramble on about everything I have been taught this semester.While I consider myself to still be learning, I have gained a whole lot more knowledge of process consulting. This is why the adult learning program is so effective, because of courses like this one. I only wish I was able to convince the business school to adopt some of these teaching methods! Thank You Dr. Carter!
Last week’s class allowed me to look into something I had never given much thought to in the past. This concept of Dialogue. Although this is not a new term for me, reading Dixon’s book allowed me to realize that perhaps I have been participating in Dialogue incorrectly all these years. I guess in the back of my mind I knew there was a difference between Discussion and dialogue, I just never applied them.
After reading Dixon’s book and facilitating a presentation, I now have a clearer understanding of what it means to have a dialogue. This concept of authenticity, keeps recurring throughout this course. Often times it is hard to separate a discussion from a dialogue and speak authentically. In most of my adult learning courses I have taken during my undergraduate and graduate career we have participated in class discussions. For me it is useful to have a discussion because it allows for the opportunity to hear different opinions and perspectives on the topics. I am not someone who can easily grasp material from a textbook simply by reading it. I need to talk about the ideas presented and hear other perspectives on the material for me to gain an overall understanding. While discussions serve there purposes, there is one key component that they lack, and that is authenticity. In last week’s class, we were able to see just how difficult it is to remain authentic during a discussion, and even more difficult to keep from interrupting. Discussions allow for conversations to flow freely but often times its hard to remain unbiased and authentic. During a discussion about a controversial topic, we are quickly able to see the discomfort on the faces of the participants. No one wants to start the discussion and when they do they are thinking of ways to sound politically correct without offending anyone in the room.
After participating in a dialogue, although somewhat exaggerated environment, we were still able to see authenticity. In the future, I would like to try to have more uninterrupted dialogue. Speaking only when in possession of a “magic 8 ball” or whatever it may be really allowed for all authentic thoughts to be conveyed. I hope to have opportunities to engage in true dialogue more often. In some instances it will be more beneficial to have a dialogue than discussion. I would like to take the time in the future to determine when it is deemed appropriate to engage in an active dialogue. Perhaps I can begin this quest with my consulting client as we approach the data gathering phase of our consultation process. During this data gathering period it is essential to remain unbiased and refrain from interrupting the source. Dialogue continues to be a work in progress. So to conclude this jumble of thought I call a blog I will end with this quote by Robert Hutchins “Education is a dialogue, and a dialogue assumes different points of view.”
Ironically this week I wanted to blog about communication. However, I have failed to communicate with my triad to tell them that I was going to be late writing this post. I apologize for my inability to communicate. Not only do I have strep throat but I am also dealing with the death of a family member which is why I have neglected my blog. I am currently trying to get caught up so here is my blog for this week, a little late but better than never right?
Working throughout this semester in ADLT 610 I have become aware of the importance of communication. It is not always easy to get a client to communicate the way that you would like but it is possible to be aware of how you as a consultant communicate. A specific example is when my group and I met with our client for the consulting project. After the first meeting each of my group members including myself had a different understanding of our clients expectations. We immediately realized that we needed to schedule a second meeting. We altered our way of communicating with our client and by the end of the meeting we all had a clear understanding of what this project will entail. Another example is in the case study we have been discussing the past two classes. It appears there was a lack of communication regarding the merger & acquisition. Some of the employees understood the changes as one way while others understood it another way. There was a disconnect between the new roles people would take on and the new organizational structure. Had there been better communication there might have been a better chance for success. Effective communication can have a huge impact on the success of a mergers & acquisitions and essentially anything else that requires more than one person.
It seems like often times we forget how important it is to communicate effectively. I am trying to make a conscious effort to communicate effectively in my daily life. Although Block and Schein do not touch much on communication, I felt that it was important to address this issue in my blog. What seems like a simple task can often times be rather complex. In my opinion an effective consultant is one who can communicate with their client in a manner that is specific to that client.
Dealing with a client can become a difficult task for consultants, it seems. Although I have minimal experience dealing with clients, I do realize that consulting doesn’t always go according to plan. As my group and I prepare for our first client meeting this week, we hit our first snag. Our contact client had to cancel with us at the last minute due to an emergency. No one can ever predict how a client will be to work with nor can they foresee unplanned events. How you deal with these client interruptions, I believe is what makes you a good consultant. This week we looked at Schein’s concepts of client. Up until now, I had not even considered the different types of clients we could be working with.
My past experiences have been mainly with nonprofit and I am looking forward to working with another non-profit this semester. Some of my primary contacts have been great to work with and only one has been not so easy to work with thus far. Clients have their own expectations which may not always align with those of the consultants. During my undergraduate career I worked with a non profit organization to help plan a fundraising event. Although this was not necessarily a process consulting project it still involved a client. The primary client was set in her ways and believed that the past way of fund raising was the best for this event. She had worked for this organization for many years but was struggling with their fund raising efforts. My group and I sat with her to brainstorm some ideas and research some possible solutions for the organization. The client resisted our ideas and we ultimately went along with the same plans they had used in the years prior. The intermediate clients attended the meeting also and embraced some of the new ideas. These intermediate clients were unable to convince the primary client so we stuck to the old way of doing things and volunteered our time preparing for the event which then changed our role to become a pair of hands. We organized the event and attended. We did raise funds but it was the lowest this event had raised in years. In this case we could not overcome client resistance and ultimately had to adapt. That experience demonstrated the downside of working with clients. We were there by the clients request and we followed her expectations. Looking back I am not sure how we could’ve overcome the resistance, which is why I am looking forward to hearing the lecture on resistance in the coming weeks.
It’s hard to believe we are starting our 3rd week of the semester. Where did Summer go? Over the Summer I enrolled in my first Adult Learning course at VCU and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to take my second course in the program. I am even more thrilled to have the opportunity to take Dr. Carter’s Consulting Skills class. I have always had an interest in consulting so I’m looking forward to getting the most from this class.
Last week we had a lot of reading to do from our texts, and I have to admit that reading textbooks is not always something I enjoy. However, after reading the first few pages in the Peter Block text I quickly realized how easy it was to relate to his words. There is a major focus on the client/consultant relationship and that’s evident after reading the first few pages of the preface. Block refers to Consulting as “an act of love.” Being helpful should be considered an act of love, i agree. What I like though is that he also points out that with this helpful act consultants also have that desire for gratitude. I believe this is true in any helpful environment not just consulting. People have a fear of failure and a desire for appreciation, so when we do something that is helpful to someone we expect a thanks in return. I have a feeling that consulting relationships don’t always have happily ever after.
It appears that clients have certain expectations of their consultant, after all they are paying the consultant generously to tell them what they want to hear. If the consultation ends in disappointment it is hard for either party to partake in this practice again. So how do we as a society overcome these disappoints and maintain our morals? I’m a firm believer that one should always maintain their expectations and not lower them for anyone. Find those who will exceed your expectations. However, consultants seem to get a bad rap in this labor market and it’s up to them to try to prove their necessity. How do we sell our services to organizations and what should we do when situations don’t always go according to plan? Perhaps we should all take a class in sales while we are at it, hmm now there’s a thought…
The adult learner has become a defining term for this stage in my life and will continue to do so from here on out. My newest task as an adult learner is familiarizing myself with the whole idea of a blog. I have never had a regular blog so this is a new learning experience for me. As a student taking classes in HRD which is a part of the adult learning program at VCU, I have the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with anyone that wants to read about them. I am looking forward to learning more and sharing what I learn along the way. I will keep you posted on my journey!
“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.“—Anatole France
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