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Of Course … The Tragic Mistake – Part Two Designing the Fix

Of Course … The Tragic Mistake – Part Two Designing the Fix

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Towards the end of my session with the CEO, she asked me to propose an engagement focused on fixing the problems which we had been discussing. “Help me drive the ‘of course’ beast off the field,” was the way she put it. Such requests should not be approached, let alone complied with, lightly. From the first in this series you will remember that it was the CEO herself who was the major facilitator of the difficulties – it was her tendencies that were at the root of the problems. Her plea was far more personal than those that might underlie a typical consulting engagement.
Towards the end of my session with the CEO, she asked me to propose an engagement focused on fixing the problems which we had been discussing. “Help me drive the ‘of course’ beast off the field,” was the way she put it. Such requests should not be approached, let alone complied with, lightly. From the first in this series you will remember that it was the CEO herself who was the major facilitator of the difficulties – it was her tendencies that were at the root of the problems. Her plea was far more personal than those that might underlie a typical consulting engagement.

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Published by: Dr. Earl R. Smith II on Apr 16, 2010
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05/12/2014

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Of Course  The Tragic Mistake  Part Two: Designing the Fix
 Dr. Earl R. Smith II
 DrSmith@Dr-Smith.com www.Dr-Smith.com Prior articles in the series:Of Course  The Tragic Mistake  Part One: Diagnosis ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Towards the end of my session with the CEO, she asked me to propose an engagement focused on fixing the problems which we had been discussing. Help me drive the of course beast off the field, was the way she put it. Such requests should not beapproached, let alone complied with, lightly. From the first in this series you willremember that it was the CEO herself who was the major facilitator of the difficulties it was her tendencies that were at the root of the problems. Her plea was far morepersonal than those that might underlie a typical consulting engagement.
Who is the client?
 Many consultants rush into these situation  often to their own peril.The key question is who is the initial client and what work has to beaccomplished before moving on the issues under discussion? Theresponse to this can be simple minded and self-serving. Here aretwo variations that I encounter regularly:
y
 
The individual is the client no matter who pays  theengagement is focused on an individual and that makes themthe client  the interests of the individual trump those of thecompany  the engagement will generate information that should properly behidden from the company
y
 
The company is the client no matter who pays  the individual works for thecompany and has a special relationship with it  that relationship obligates theemployee to always act in the best interest of the company- the engagement willgenerate information that should properly be hidden from the individual A third attempts to thread the needle:
y
 
The client is the one who pays  the engagement is focused on the payer andthat makes them the client  the interests of that entity trumps those of theother  the engagement will generate information that should properly be hiddenfrom the other
 
Setting the terms
  A more professional approach begins with a careful and detailed negotiation of anengagement agreement. The details of such an agreement will define who the client is,what work is to be done, how information generated as a result of this work will beshared and who will pay. In the current situation, the definition of the work to be donewas initially focused on the CEO. It was clear that, until she changed some of herenabling behaviors, progress in changing the culture in the company was going to bevery difficult. I made this point during a follow-on session the next morning. The first stage of the engagement had to be coaching and she had to be the client. Over thenext hour we reached agreement on the terms of that engagement.
y
 
She was to be the client and would pay out of her own pocket. (The logic herewas that it was unfair to have the company pay for correcting a problem that shehad caused.)
y
 
W
e would work off-site but key members of her team would be informed of thefocus and progress of our work. (Members of her team would be aware of thework and could support our efforts. This did create some hesitation on her part ego and self-image can be difficult to manage under such circumstances reflexive assumptions of omnipotence and omniscience can create challengingresponses.)
y
 
Once the coaching engagement was complete, we would shift to an advisoryengagement under which the company was the client. (This required us tonegotiate clearly stated objectives and performance metrics. We would onlymorph the engagement when they had been clearly met.)Once the CEO and I reached an agreement, we shared the terms and conditions withher senior team. As you might expect, managing that meeting was a major challenge. Iwas reminded of a sweatshirt that a scientist friend of mine is fond of wearing. On thefront it says:
Reversals are Coming
 On the Back:
Gnimoc era Slasrever
 Some of the senior team was clearly anxious. Most had enjoyed the relatively open andunstructured culture of the company. The fact that is was losing money and about torun out of funding was, of course, a matter of concern but this approach seemed a bit of an over-reaction to a couple of them. To her credit, the CEO stood her ground andinsisted that this was the way forward. She expected every member of her team tosupport the process. In the end they agreed. But I made a mental note of those who Ifigured would not survive.

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