The Consultant’s Goal

The 10th and final principle that emerges from a biographical study of Jethro, the Effective Consultant, deals with the outcome.  Every person hopes that the time and energy invested in consulting will result in some meaningful and lasting positive change.  Moses stayed his course in a difficult situation and with rather difficult people.  He saw some change but toward the end of his life he expressed the desire of his heart in Psalm 90:17, Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.  For the work of one’s hand to be confirmed, there must be enough time and energy directed wisely toward the effort without pre-mature disengagement.

  1. 18:24-27 Stay long enough to see suggestions begun. The better the analysis and recommendation the more likely the success of change.  However, there will often be obstacles never envisioned.  When the consultant can remain in the context long enough to view the initial movement toward change then he can serve as a resource for overcoming obstacles.  One can only imagine how Moses secured thousands of leaders (men were appointed over 10s, 50s, 100s, 1000s) who would serve as junior judges for the over 1 million adults who left Egypt.  Jethro certainly must have served his son-in-law long enough to figure out this leadership challenge!

The clearer the agreed upon outcome, the clearer the process can be.  Whether a parent is seeking to guide a child or an executive is seeking to bring change within an organization, thinking first with the end in mind is needed.  Major on the big issues; discipline yourself to overlook the “small stuff.”  In the end, sustainable, lasting, positive change will only happen when people are personally committed to the forward process.

The grandfather of organizational development, Edgar Schein, has written three books on the consulting process, and his most recent book hits the nail on the head from my understanding.  He approaches Process Consultation as helping people help themselves.  The central assumption to organizational learning and development is that “one can only help a human system to help itself.”  So, he defines process consulting as, “… the creation of a relationship with the client that permits the client to perceive, understand, and act on the process events that occur in the client’s internal and external environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client.” (Schein, 1999. Process Consultation Revisited: Building the helping relationship. p. 20)

For people to want to help themselves they must value the help offered and have some degree of ownership.  In the non-profit world consulting is often expected to be free of charge (FOC).  When I am asked for advice I freely share since I am not dependent on such income to supplement my financial needs.  However, there is a real danger when consulting FOC.  We often value little that which costs us nothing.  An effective consultant must ensure people are committed to follow through on the change process.

The reward for consulting can be the satisfaction of helping someone get to a better place.  Jethro undoubtedly departed from Moses with great satisfaction knowing that his son-in-law had recruited help and delegated responsibility.  He stayed engaged long enough to see change begun.



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