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My Journey Through Learning

These last four years have indeed been a journey, and my blog has been a way to capture post card greetings along the way. It has been fascinating to read back through it from January 2010 until now, finding the recurring themes and watching the evolution of my blogging prowess.

My journey actually started in September 2009 when I first learned about this M.Ed. program from a friend of a friend (my PLN – Personal Learning Network – was hard at work long before I knew it had a name). She suggested I meet Dr. Terry Carter, and one meeting with her was all it took to convince me to enroll. Beyond the excitement she created for what I would learn in the program, I have to admit feeling an instant connection with Dr. Carter when I saw the pictures of her Goldens – Carolina and Georgia – prominently displayed in her office.aha-moment

So, four years later, where do I start with this end-of-program reflection? I have considered several formats, but the one that feels most appropriate is to share some of my favorite aHA! moments from my blog (and other writings) that changed my thinking, coalesced my thinking, or got me thinking about completely new things.

Changing my view of what I consider learning

In the fall of my first year in the program, we were assigned to write an educational bio. As I wrote in an assignment later that same semester,

I had a hard time writing my educational biography earlier this semester, and I felt as if I did not have very many informal learning experiences to include. Yet when it came time to map out my time line for life learning, there were so many events that I included that I had not thought to include when I wrote my biography. For example, I referenced in my biography that I am divorced, but I did not talk at all about my marriage. I also did not mention any of the events that were part of what I call my mid-life crisis. When I asked myself why I did not include them in my bio, the answer came quickly – I had not considered them “educational” experiences. I had not yet realized how important adult development is to adult learning.

I am glad I came to this understanding of adult development early in my masters program, because that led me to be looking for learning everywhere… and everywhere is where I found it!

I found it while on a webinar at work about the marketing concept of “storyselling” and immediately realizing it is akin to creating significant learning. It’s in the post my sister shared on Facebook from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace that I can tie into my readings about connectivism. It comes when you enhance your digital literacy so you can tell fact from fiction. It’s in my meditation practice that enhances neuroplasticity that leads to lifelong learning. The opportunity to learn is all around you, as is the opportunity to gain from what you have learned in unexpected ways.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
John Dewey

Watching the learning come together

The Design and Delivery class was my first opportunity to create a real training program. This class fell at the midpoint of my time in the program and allowed me to “… [think] back not only on what I’ve learned in this course, but on how what I’ve learned in this course has brought up some of the themes I’ve been thinking about over the last two years.” Some of those recurring themes were setting clear objectives, ensuring transfer of learning, and creating opportunities for the teacher/facilitator to learn along with her learners.

Jane Vella’s book On Teaching and Learning will forever guide my instructional methods. The Four I model – induction, input, implementation, and integration –

appeals to me because it provides just enough structure to get you started in developing your instruction, but it affords plenty of room to be creative and flexible with your approach.  As I was developing the instructional plan [in this class], I would find myself thinking while driving to and from work about what questions I could pose to draw out the learners’ previous experience (inductive work), or how I could design a task that would be fun and useful (implementation).  While out walking the dogs, I would think about ways to transfer the learning beyond the workshop (integration).  It was much more than sitting down at one time and listing out the information that I wanted to impart to the learners… [D]eveloping effective learning is not just about covering the content…

as Vella so vividly demonstrated when she literally sat on her book during our Skype call that semester.

Over the course of the next two years in the program, I relied on many of the things I practiced during this class, especially as we revisited the concept of dialogue in Consulting Skills and in Capstone. My teammate and I followed Vella’s model when we tackled the creation of a hybrid learning class for adult educators in Design Challenges for eLearning for Adults, which was a capstone-like class in my technology track.

It was in the Design and Delivery class that I came to understand all that goes into program development – from the politics of the stakeholders, to the forethought needed around how to set up the room, to the painstaking process of creating meaningful assessment tools. It was also during this class that I came to understand

how an instructor can teach the same course over and over and over again, year after year, and still make it new and fresh for each class.  Well, at least the good instructors do!  What I learned this semester is that, for the good instructors, it’s never really the same course… Each time you teach a class or facilitate a training session, there are new learners in the class who bring new experiences and thus new opportunities to work with the content.

A new way of thinking about learning

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

I chose the technology track on the advice of a friend I met through the Richmond chapter of ASTD. Four years ago, she said eLearning was definitely a hot area, but nobody was doing it well. If I could learn how it should be done, I would be a hot commodity. However, I had my doubts about eLearning which I explored in my first semester. I further examined my concerns about the acceptability of online degrees in my project for Research Methods. Even during the first of my technology track classes, I blogged about

hanging on to my preference for traditional classroom learning. I love being on campus and having the face-to-face interactions with classmates and the professor. I appreciate the effective use of technology in the classroom, and I am addicted to the myriad information online that supplements my learning. But… technology AS the “classroom”? I’m still warming up to that idea, and for that reason, I’m glad this semester’s class is a hybrid class. Ease me into the transition.

By the midpoint of the semester, I was drowning in my new-found love of online learning, or rather learning online. (Thanks, Dr. Watwood, for that lesson in the power of semantics!) There is no doubt it was during these technology track classes that I found my learning groove.

In the Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration into Adult Learning Environments class, I was introduced to and became enamoured with George Siemens’ theory of connectivism and the ideas that “learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements” and that “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” These ideas were definitely part of what shaped my thinking when I wrote, “by being a lifelong learner, you are open to unlearning what you know in favor of learning something you can’t even imagine now.

As I had already come to discover in Groups & Team, “learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity,” and Siemens goes on to say that “when knowledge… is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill,” thus prompting me to blog:

It is that peer-to-peer interaction that, for me, defines my graduate education experience.  It’s realizing that when I walk into a room at the beginning of the semester, I am meeting, or more often now re-connecting with, a room full of instructors from whom I will gain contextual learning from perspectives I never imagined — nurse, doctor, army officer, corporate executive, academic staffer, teacher, community activist, IT guru… the list goes on and on…

During the second of the technology track classes – Exploration of Digital Media – I chose to explore Jaron Lanier’s You are not a gadget as my individual project. I chose this book because I was seeking a counter balance to what I had referred to in the previous semester as being addicted to the eLearning Kool-Aid. I wanted to examine the arguments Lanier presents as well as test my own acceptance and assumptions about these technologies and social media tools.

JasonLanier_AFI had no idea how much of an impression this book would have on me, or how often I would think back on it and wonder What would Jaron say? As I was reading Lanier’s book, I found myself getting as excited about agreeing with him as disagreeing. Mostly because he made me think so hard about what he was saying before I could even decide if I agreed or disagreed. I felt at times as if I were in a tumultuous relationship with Lanier – one minute I loved him for opening my mind and challenging me to think so differently; the next I hated him for being so cynical and egotistical. In the end, I decided the best way to describe my relationship with Lanier and my analysis of his ideas was simply to say, “it’s complicated.” Spend a few minutes with Lanier, and you’ll understand.

A few words about my blog

My blog has been my faithful companion these past four years, and I would be remiss if I did not dedicate space to reflect on my blog itself.

For the first few years, I wrote my blog for myself and didn’t expect anyone to comment on it except maybe my professors. Then we started to have blog buddies, and I got used to the idea that people would be reading my writings, albeit fellow classmates. During my tour through the technology track classes, I decided to give my blog a facelift and make it more like a real blog with an About me page and links to some of my other work from the program. Still, though, I never anticipated what happened on the afternoon of December 6, 2012.

I received an email notification from WordPress that I had a ping back to approve on a post I’d written about the concept of Big Data earlier in the semester. I was used to ping backs from my classmates, but this was a ping back from a blog written by the Marketing Communications Manager at Lyris, a global digital marketing agency! She had quoted me in her blog and referred to me a “Blogger Joanne Even.” I was stunned. I was thrilled. I was a BLOGGER!

It is bittersweet to find myself at this destination called graduation. While it is not the end of my journey through learning, it is most definitely a significant endpoint. I am a lifelong learner and as such will continue the journey and my reflective practice because

… it’s been my own words that have rewarded me by showing how much I have learned over the past few years and how well I weave my academic learning into every aspect of my life.

So for me, it is not so much transferring what I learned into my own teaching practice right now as it is about paying attention to these practices in other areas – such as the recent trend in gamification in marketing, the move toward mobile technologies, and questions surrounding analytics to assess ROI on social media – and applying what I have learned in this [program] to understand how to answer the questions that surround these topics in a different context. (ADLT 640 Final Self-Assessment)

Through self-assessments and especially through my reflective blogging practice, I am proving to myself that I am establishing significant learning.

Post Script

At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I spent virtually my entire graduate school tenure hoping to make a career change into adult education. It took a leap of faith to quit my job last month without having another job lined up, but I had to give myself the time and space for a transition. As it was a connection in my PLN that started me on this journey through learning, so it was again when a connection I made in my very first M.Ed. class made the introduction that has landed me my first job in the field of learning and development. As a strong believer of chaos theory, it’s hard for me to say it was meant to be – even in a state of chaos, things can line up favorably – but what I can say is that I am excited to start this next phase of my journey.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

What Have You Learned?

What have you learned in the last week?

This is the question our professor asks us each week. It’s a legitimate question, and one you might expect in a classroom environment, but surprisingly, it’s not always an easy question to answer. Not because we haven’t learned anything, but because sometimes it’s hard to put your learning into words.

Real Woman Drive Stick ShiftIf you learn a new skill — how to drive a stick-shift car — that’s easy to articulate. But what does it mean that you can now drive a stick-shift car? Does it mean you can buy the sports car you always wanted? Does it mean you can drive a friend’s car and get her home safely when she’s had a few drinks and shouldn’t be behind the wheel? Or does it mean you have a better understanding and appreciation for how an automobile works? Is it enough to ask what you’ve learned, or is the real question how does what you’ve learned change the way you look at or think about things?

It’s this second layer of what we’ve learned that’s hard to articulate. For example, during my recent interviews with the staff at UMFS, I learned about all the different roles the teachers take with their students. In addition to the not-so-small task of providing effective instruction, they must also be counselors, therapists, disciplinarians, and negotiators. But how does this knowledge help me assess the overall learning culture and needs at UMFS, which is the task our class is charged with this semester?

First, it illustrates to me that in addition to standard teacher certification requirements, these teachers are also required to learn and implement Collaborative Problem Solving techniques and the MANDT system for de-escalating volatile situations. They need to learn how to employ Plan B scenarios with students in order to keep the class on an even keel. They need to be ready to assist a fellow teacher by coaching him through the appropriate steps to restrain a child and keep her from hurting herself or others. It means that these teachers really need their down time to re-energize, but does it also mean that they need or desire more or different professional development opportunities?

We are still wrestling with these questions (and others) as we sort through all of our interview data. We’ve learned a lot, but what does it mean? How do we use that learning to provide ideas and recommendations?

We trust the process of Action Learning: Great questions always lead to great reflection.  Great reflection always leads to great learning. And great learning always leads to great action.

I believe we have asked some great questions — both in our interviews with people at UMFS and of each other in class. I think we were all struck by the power of the question Melissa wrote on the board Thursday night — are we trying to shape the learning culture or to shape culture through learning? As I look back through the notes I took in class, I see a lot of great questions. Time now to reflect on these questions to discover what we’ve learned and how to turn that learning into action for our client.

“The questions that heal us and offer hope for authentic change are the ones we cannot easily answer…”
~ Peter Block

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Capstone

 

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Dear Blog,

Hello, blog. Oh, how I have missed you! The anticipation of starting a new post. The smile inside when the idea finally comes together. The gratitude for those who read and comment. And, most of all, the cathartic exercise for mind and soul that blogging is for me. I have missed it all these past few months.

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you. I have pieces of paper all over the house with ideas for blog posts. I have a running list of topics saved in a Notepad file on my desktop. What I haven’t had is time. Time to slow down, breathe, and think. Time to meditate through words about what I’ve been learning and what connections I am making. I am writing today to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for neglecting you, and in turn, for neglecting a very important part of myself.

Last weekend, I did make time to do some reading that relates to our service learning project with UMFS. I read about rocks, hedgehogs, and buses. I recognized that some of my biggest rocks — family and school — have been pushed out of my time jar. I discovered that there is a name for the kind of thing I long to have in my professional life — a hedgehog concept, a basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions. And I finally decided that I am on the WRONG bus, and it is long past the time for me to get off!

And so it is with this short post that I recommit myself to you, my blog. We have but a short time left until I reach the end of my Masters program, and I want to share every last minute with you. You have been a faithful companion on this journey, and you’ve helped me capture a tremendous amount of learning. We’ve had a lot of fun along the way, too, and I want to get that back.

With great affection,

Joanne

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Capstone

 

What I Found Out

My first post this semester posed the question about the connection between consulting and education. Change seemed to be the commonality, and while I do still think that facilitating change is an important part of the role of both the educator and the consultant, I now see other connections, too.

During my first class in this program, I came to the realization that it was not just the students who had the opportunity to learn — that as a teacher / facilitator, I had the chance to learn something from each class, too. I was reminded of this when I read Ward Mailliard’s story in Block’s book. Ward brought Block’s ideas about flawless consulting to the classroom in a way that gave his student more control over their own learning. In turn, he wondered, “What could I learn from my students that would allow me to be more effective in the learning environment?” I wondered the same thing when I was designing a volunteer training program and decided that I “have the opportunity to learn from each session in ways that I can use to rework the program for the next time around.”

Block writes that “our job [as consultants] is to be a learning architect. At our best, we design settings that lead to insight, resolution of differences, and change” (p. 300). This reminded me of what Maryellen Weimer wrote in her book Learner-Centered Teaching that faculty should be “instructional designers who put together challenging and complex learning experiences and then create environments that empower students to accomplish the goals” (p. 18). For me, though, it’s not just the shift from a teacher-centered environment to a learner-centered environment. I hope to take it one step further to create a learning-centered environment where we all have the opportunity to learn from each other.

So how does one create such a setting? It seems to come back to dialogue and asking the right question: why?

The questions that heal us and offer hope for authentic change are the ones we cannot easily answer… the why questions are designed for learning and change… It is in the dialogue about these questions that change occurs (Block, pp. 305-307).

The ‘why‘ question is a powerful intervention because it often forces the client to focus on something that he had taken entirely for granted and to examine it from a new perspective (Schein, p. 51).

Getting an honest answer to the Why? question… controls your responses to all the [instructional] design questions that follow…We ask the Why? question before determining appropriate content and learning objectives… Inattention to this step in design can result in inappropriate or irrelevant content (Vella, pp. 33-34).

So asking the right questions is the key to learning. Wait, I think I’ve written about this before. Yes, it was in a post about Action Learning. Great questions always lead to great reflection. Great reflection always leads to great learning. And great learning always leads to great action. So now, not only do I have a better understanding of how learning about consulting skills can enhance my role as an educator, I have also discovered ways in which being in the consultant role can provide me with learning opportunities, too.

Bring on the Capstone class!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in ADLT 610

 

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Thinking about Dialogue… Part 2

Several areas of my recent readings about dialogue prompted me to think about ideas I had wrestled with while reading Jaron Lanier’s You are not a gadget including collective wisdom, fragments and bits, and of course the cephalopod.

Collective Wisdom

Both Edgar Schein and Nancy Dixon discuss the benefit of dialogue as resulting in a better and more creative solution than any one person could have contemplated. While I tend to agree with this, I do see that when taken to extremes, collective wisdom can become group think which can lead to what Lanier calls the noosphere or hive mind. Lanier argues quite emphatically against the idea that quantity, at an extreme scale such as you would find on the Internet, will produce quality. While Schein and Dixon are not talking about dialogue on a scale that large, it begs the question that Lanier asks “whether it is possible to map out where the one is smarter than the many” (p. 56).

In support of the collective wisdom of the group, I give you Gamers who come together in online communities and have solved some of the most perplexing problems through cooperation and collaboration. For a quick overview, read this blog post; for a more exciting look into this online community, view Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk. (I wonder what Schein would think of these groups and their prowess at problem-solving as I’m reading now his ideas on the interpersonal processes involved in building and maintaining groups… perhaps something to explore in a later post.)

Fragments

I was quite taken with Dixon’s summary of David Bohm’s theory, and I was pleased to see that Schein based much of his discussion on Bohm’s work. As a physicist, Bohm views the world as an “unbroken flowing whole” (as quoted in Dixon, p. 10). Dixon goes on to describe Bohm’s frustration with the way people see the world not as a whole but as bits or fragments. Bohm’s “objection to a fragmentary view of the world was that it disposes people to think of the divisions between things as absolute and final rather than as having a limited utility and validity” (p. 11).

Lanier spends a great deal of time laying out his ideas about how we present ourselves in bits and fragments to the point where “the deep meaning of personhood is being reduced by illusions of bits” (p. 20) and “this information underrepresents reality” (p. 69). It would seem to me that Lanier might agree with Bohm (and Schein) that “dialogue is a way to apprehend the meaning of others and to thereby experience the wholeness of the world” (Dixon, p. 11).

The Platypus and The Cephalopod

Schein retells the story of when the platypus was discovered and the ensuing controversy about how to classify it — was it a mammal, a reptile, or perhaps a bird? While this speaks to the natural inclination of people to look at things as fragments, trying to fit something new into an existing schema, this story also reminded me of two areas Lanier discusses — language and what Lanier calls post-symbolic communication.

The more direct comparison is with Lanier’s discussion of language, which he describes as “built up from entries in a catalog, not from infinitely morphable patterns” (p. 165). He goes on to say that “while language has become richer over time, it has never become absolutely precise” (p. 169), thus our inability to define the platypus. This leads me to one of my favorite quotes from Lanier’s book: “it seems pointless to insist that what we already understand must suffice to explain what we don’t understand” (p. 51) — an idea I think Bohm would support as he claims that “we have to have enough faith in our world-view to work from it, but not that much faith that we think it’s the final answer” (as quoted in Dixon, p. 11).

Which brings me finally to the cephalopod and Lanier’s ideas of postsymbolic communication which could “give rise to a vivid expansion of meaning” (p.190). Watch as this cephalopod morphs into its surroundings:

Suppose we had the ability to morph at will, as fast as we can think. What sort of language might that make possible? Would it be the same old conversation, or would we be able to ‘say’ new things to one another (Lanier, p. 190)?

And what implication might that have on dialogue?

References:

Dixon, N. M. (1996). Perspectives on dialogue. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

Lanier, J. (2011). You are not a gadget. New York: Vintage Books.

Schein, E. H. (1999). Process consultation revisited. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in ADLT 610

 

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Thinking about Dialogue… Part 1

As I read both Schein’s and Dixon’s views on dialogue this week, I was making connections back to two of the more influential authors I’ve read during my coursework in this program — Jane Vella and Jaron Lanier. As often happens when I think about Lanier’s work, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to integrate his views on language, communication, and how we process information with what Schein and Dixon say, so I will start with the connections I made to the work of Jane Vella.

Dialogue and Education

In her book, On Teaching and Learning, Vella introduced me to dialogue education, which she defines as “a state of mind, moving us to listening, respecting, doubting, reflecting, designing, affirming, considering options, and celebrating opposites” (p. 11).

The dialogue Vella advocates is not between teacher and student, but amongst the learners, one of whom is also the teacher. However, Vella is quick to note that this is not a learner-centered model, but a learning-centered model. As with much of what I read about dialogue from Schein and Dixon, it is about creating the process by which decisions can be made, problems can be addressed, or as Vella would advocate, learning can be achieved. The teacher or consultant takes on the role of facilitator rather than expert, leaving the real work to be done by those participating in the dialogue.

A Safe Environment

According to Vella, “dialogue education springs from a place of goodness, integrity, and commitment to equity” (p. xii). Only in such an environment are learners willing to share their experiences as freely as they are to admit to their questions. How many times have you stifled a question because you didn’t feel safe to ask it?

Both Dixon and Schein discuss the notion of safety as a cornerstone of creating successful dialogue. Dixon describes the outcome of dialogue as unpredictable and warns that “if a forum is created in which dialogue can occur, it must be accepted that some of the beliefs that people hold sacred will be challenged” (p. 31). Her view is that dialogue is a relationship “in which the other is valued, trusted, and an equal whose ideas are respected if not always agreed with” (p. 28).

Schein speaks to this idea of the safe environment more from a perspective of creating equality within the group by incorporating basic group dynamic principles:

  • Group members need to feel equal in that setting even if there are status differences outside of that setting
  • Group members should be given equal time to speak and contribute to the discussion (although once the actual dialogue starts, Schein says it is okay to “suspend” or refrain from talking if you are taking note of how you are processing the dialogue in terms of your own tacit assumptions and are open to hearing differing opinions)
  • Group members will likely need to draw on personal experience to begin to frame the idea of dialogue (p. 206)

This last point reminded me of what Vella calls induction or “anchoring the new content into their context” (p. 62). Dixon points out that dialogue is not an unfamiliar idea. She and Schein both base their theories on the assumption that everyone can recall a time when they had good communication. It is from that shared understanding that they build their theories about how dialogue can be brought into the workplace.

The Collective Good

Is the group greater than the sum of its parts? Schein states that “an important goal of dialogue is to enable the group to reach a higher level of consciousness and creativity” (p. 203), and Dixon talks about how through dialogue “the result is likely to be an understanding of the issue that is richer, more integrated, and more creative than any one individual… is likely to produce” (Johnson and Johnson as cited in Dixon, p. 35).

While Vella feels that the responsibility for learning always lies with an individual, she says that “learning is supported and nourished by the small group” (p. 67). In her discussion of learning tasks, she says it’s not about the group working together to complete the task as much as it is about creating learning for all through the task (p. 68). This echos the idea of promotive interaction — “individuals encouraging and facilitating each other’s efforts to achieve, complete tasks, and produce in order to reach the groups’ goals” (Johnson and Johnson as cited in Dixon, p. 18).

Preview of Part 2

This idea of the collective good is where I think I may start when I tackle the post about integrating Schein’s and Dixon’s theories of dialogue with Lanier’s feelings about collective wisdom. And I will be remiss if I don’t take the opportunity to springboard off Schein’s discussion of naming (and the platypus story) to share Lanier’s views on communication, computationalism, reality… and cephalopods. (How’s that for a teaser!)

Resources:

Dixon, N. M. (1996). Perspectives on dialogue. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

Schein, E. H. (1999). Process consultation revisited. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in ADLT 610

 

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Those Who Can… Do. Those Who Can’t… Consult?

You’ve probably heard that title phrase before, whether in relation to consulting, teaching, or coaching. But is that really a fair statement that consultants (teachers or coaches) can’t do the task? Or is it that they shouldn’t be doing, but rather helping others to do.

Ron Ashkenas, a managing partner at Connecticut-based Schaffer Consulting recently asked a group of MBA students to define what it means to be a consultant. He says, “they quickly rattled off phrases such as ‘trusted advisor,’ ‘problem-solver,’ ‘objective 3rd party,’ and ‘subject matter expert.’ What was interesting was that none of their definitions mentioned the word ‘results.'”

At first glance, that omission seems to be okay within the confines of what I’ve learned so far about the particular type of consulting known as process consulting. The idea behind process consulting, as Schein says, is “how powerful it is not to tell people what to do, but to create a situation where they have to think it through for themselves.” Schein postulates that the client should own both the problem and the solution. “At the core of this [Process Consulting] model is the philosophy that clients must be helped to remain proactive, in the case of retaining both the diagnostic and remedial initiative” (p. 20). But does this really mean that the consultant is off the hook for what does or doesn’t come from their work?

In Flawless Consulting, Peter Block takes a very direct approach in terms of the consultant’s role. “Your responsibility as a consultant is to present information as simply, directly, and assertively as possible and to complete the task of each of the phases of the consultation” (p. 50). He says that taking on responsibility for tasks that belong to the client are detrimental to the consulting process. “In the final analysis, you [the consultant] are not responsible for the use of your expertise and recommendations. If consultants really believe that they should be responsible for implementing their recommendations, they should immediately get jobs as line managers and stop calling themselves consultants” (p. 46).

Let’s go back to Ashkenas’ notion that “shielding of consultants from the responsibility to achieve results is potentially dangerous both to the consultants and to the managers who hire them.” This would seem to be in direct conflict with Block’s approach. And yet, if we really dig into what Ashkenas see as “results,” we find a concept that he, Block, and Schein can all agree on.

Ashkenas says the consultant’s work should “focus more on what’s possible and has the best chance of making an impact – instead of on what’s theoretically ‘right.'” Block says consultants need to “understand enough about the politics of the situation to see how it will affect your project and the implementation of your recommendations.” And, I believe, both of these ideas are echoed in Schein’s second principle — always stay in touch with current reality — which takes into account that “current assumptions and perceptions create that reality and how they [consultants and clients] should best deal with that reality in terms of the client’s intentions to improve the situation” (p. 6). Therefore, the result that consultants should be held accountable for is to deliver a recommendation that is achievable given the current environment and constraints.

This all hits home for me as we start planning for our initial meeting with our client this weekend. What will we actually be offering the client? A plan? A solution? Something even more tangible such as a new website? What does the client think we’re offering? What deliverable will have the best chance of making an impact? How can we begin to discover the politics that might affect the implementation? What should we be listening for to begin to piece together the current reality?

It seems to me that doing something — creating a new website or writing press releases about upcoming shows — might be easier. But if we don’t bring the client through the process with us such that he understands how to keep driving traffic to the website or how to write a compelling press release, then we’ve failed in our attempts to help our client. Consulting takes “doing” to the next level and leaves the clients with the tools to do for themselves.

I started with a quote that was not so flattering, so I shall leave you with one that is much more flattering, and to my mind, much closer to the truth.

best-teachers

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in ADLT 610

 

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