Management and Organizational Consulting: 10 Myths

Sections of this topic

    In Part 1, we’ll review myths 1-5. In the upcoming Part 2, we’ll review myths 6-10.

    #1. The Myth of the “One-Way Expert” Consultant

    It is not uncommon that clients work from the assumption that there are consulting “experts” who can visit a client and promptly tell the client exactly what problems exist within the organization and then exactly what should be done to solve these situations. Experienced consultants and clients have realized that the “truth” in a process of organizational change emerges as you and your client work together, always sharing your perceptions, conclusions, and learning. Successful organizational change is indeed a process – a journey – that you and your client take together. The accuracy of the recommendations often is not as important as your client’s commitment to – participating in – and learning from – implementing those recommendations.

    This is not to say that consultants do not have expertise in how organizations function, why issues arise, or what might be the range of solutions to address a given issue. As important as having this expertise is for the consultant to verify their impressions by working collaboratively with the client, as much as possible, to explore the inner workings of their client’s organization.

    2. Myth That the Client’s Best Consultant Has “Been There, Done That”

    Clients who have never worked with management and organizational consultants before often seek consultants who have successfully addressed the same problem in the same type of organization as the clients. The client’s belief is that those consultants are experts at solving that situation in the client’s organization, as well. While that belief seems valid, it is extremely difficult to apply in real life. Each organization and its culture are highly unique as are the types of problems experienced by those organizations. The most important skills required by these consultants often do not include a strong understanding of the particular products, services, or programs offered by the organization. The most important skills often are the ability to work with clients to apply principles of systems thinking, performance management, and organizational change to address issues and goals.

    3. Myth of the “Savior” Consultant

    Some clients prefer that consultants somehow descend into the client’s organization, make several quick changes, and then leave, having fixed the organization’s problems. Although these clients know better, they sometimes still act as if there are those kinds of “savior” consultants out there. Few, if any, management and organizational projects are really that simple. Consequently, many consulting projects end up not being useful, for example, strategic plans that collect dust on shelves.

    4. Myth of the Detached, Objective Consultant

    Recent innovations in organizational and management development, such as systems theory and chaos theory, have helped us realize that, as soon as you begin to interact with members of your client’s organization, you become part of the overall “system” of your client’s organization. You affect the organization and the organization affects you and your client. Experienced consultants have learned that the success of consulting rests, in large part, on how well the consultant and client work together to share their discovery, feedback, actions, and learning.

    5. Myth of “Diagnosis”

    Similar to the myth of the detached, objective consultant are the beliefs of the consultant and client that the client’s situation can be “diagnosed” — as if the situation is a static, mechanical device with a problem that can be solved permanently by fixing one flawed component. Instead, organizations are ever-changing, dynamic systems whose changes are caused by a myriad of subsystems, each integrated with the other. Attention to one subsystem often changes the others, resulting in new issues and priorities as the system progresses through its life cycles, whether the system is an organization, department, team, product, or person … and so it goes. It’s not a diagnostic event — it’s a process of discovery.

    Tune in for Part 2 where we review myths 6-10.

    What do you think?


    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.