THE CONSULTING DIFFERENCE

A primer for the expert consultant

© 1988, 1989, 1998 Ioan Tenner

Copying parts or the entire article is permitted for personal or educational usage only with clear mention of this copyright statement. Printed publication without written approval from the author is not permitted. Ioan Tenner, 38 Ch. du Pré-de-la-Croix, 1222 Geneva Switzerland, Tel./fax: +4122 772 0292, mobile: +41-78 7111 408, E-mail: tenner@wanadoo.fr Consulting Difference 1

Introduction

What is a consultant? How is a consultant different from other professional people? How to know who is and who isn’t one? In what is consulting different from people management, from project management, or research and expert work? Is there a special style of thinking and acting, unique to consultants? How to explain the added value we give as consultants? How to ensure that the conditions necessary to succeed such work are negotiated? What features do consultants need to develop to become excellent? The essay is my answer to these questions. The reader will find in the following pages, models and rules of thumb for consulting excellence. My aim is not to analyse or prove. I want to shape and improve Consultancy. The intention is to support consultants when they need to explain, to value and to expand their competence and the benefit they give to clients. Between the lines, this essay expresses the core of my belief; Experts, scholars, knowledge workers, white collars, “intellectuals” of all kinds are not doomed to be powerless spectators or political pawns of this world. In war and peace, industry and commerce, finance and art, religion and government, in strategy and tactics, things are done through the intervention and the transfer of knowledge, of experience, of knowhow and of wisdom (or unfortunately, of the opposite to wisdom). The creation, the communication and the application of ideas are among the strongest industrial forces in today’s Civilisation, to its best and worst. Knowledge-work has a clear action value and a high money value. But most intellectuals I met have yet to learn the art of doing things with ideas. I work for this art.

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Who are the consultants?

From many meanings of the word consultant and ways to qualify it, I want to present the work of people that should be called “expert consultants”. Such people are generalists in the sense that the skills of giving advice and the facilitation tactics used apply to almost any expertise. We could call the same consultants, “experts”. Consultants are “knowledge workers”. They include, but not exclusively, management consultants and a variety of advice-giving professionals: scientists, engineers, educators, lawyers, artists, military, accountants, and businesspeople. Senior managers are in this sense management consultants who provide strategic and operational advice to their executives, to their peers or to their subordinates. All these people find themselves in a position to give advice and to help other people to use the advice. While the common or “general” aspect is the skill to advise and make things happen, the expert side is the specialised know-how and knowledge without which consulting would have little value. In theory there is a whole range of approaches to consulting, between “content free” and “content heavy”. In practice there is no pure expertise consulting as there is no pure “communication” or “process” consulting. Some Organisation Development colleagues and Human Resource Development agencies, claim to practice “pure process” or even “content-free” intervention. I don’t believe that this is possible. In fact, “process consulting” applies a content expertise (about human processes). The “process” interventions require advanced knowledge of social science and concrete competencies grown through practical experience. Any person, who has mature expertise in any field and is able to communicate it usefully, is a potential consultant.

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offering to a contractual. Pragmatic Let me give a short explanation: Consulting is pragmatic for it is a result-orientated practice. professional consulting is today a specialised and structured occupation with temporary assignments of shorter or longer term. temporary client Consulting Difference 4 . Today. It is also a transaction of trust. on the personal credibility of the adviser and on the degree of mutual agreement. we see consulting evolving into a vocation of knowledge and know-how transfer for practical purpose. In other words I define consulting as a pragmatic. Professional Service offering to a contractual.What is consulting? Consulting is helping other people to manage. This is why I claim that there is a perceptible consulting difference. different and sometimes opposed to the practices of scientific research and to the teaching of expertise for its own sake. which may be given occasionally by any knowledgeable person. Consulting is a professional service given by people. employed for their expertise and personal impact. and acceptance between the adviser and the clients. Advice and help are offered for sale to contractual clients who may accept and buy them. possibly only on a temporary basis. support or advice. usually explanation. forecasting. transfer of expertise and intervention. It is a very specific and fragile feature of consulting. to be so dependent on perception. to do things . It can not be forced upon people. situation and risk assessment. listening and asking questions. Consulting is a service evaluated in terms of demand and offer. It is work of a third type. However. it serves action and results. It means serving other people. professional service. needs.not managing other people to do things. understanding. highly educated or experienced. decision advice. temporary client: expert looking. You can not be sent to consult unwilling people who are not your clients. who are talented. There is one-time or brief consultancy. Instead of serving the finding of a truth or the perfection in method. and not doing things for other people.

It is the main chance to develop a bias for client reality instead of blindness produced by our own knowledge. not only the subject. Needs. a professional consultant would appreciate the situation and the environment in order to forecast the opportunities and risks of alternative developments. listening The first offering of the profession is expert looking and listening. professional consultants would also ask questions to probe and to clarify their clients’ presented needs and problems. It is assumed that the consultant has a wider horizon than the problem presented and foresees the possible outcomes of a choice of courses of action. Quality listening is the first non-tangible deliverable of any consulting service and a critical success factor in understanding the client and in building the support relationship. situation and risk assessment Consulting Difference 5 . This is another way to say that the mandatory groundwork of consulting is observation and understanding. Asking questions Your second offer is in your questions and in your method of questioning. Not meeting or not clarifying some of these implicit expectations is the source of low service quality and bitter disappointment. and even without an explicit request.Expert looking. their interests and points of view. Before giving solutions. The human quality and the technique of the listening as well as the prestige of the listener may even be the core of the offer in some forms of consulting. People expect all consultants to be able to ask the right questions and listen to the client’s answers. Listening and observing is a warranty that you will understand the clients’ situation. Thirdly. like psychoanalysis or the catholic confession. Questioning and building ways from the client’s own answers are an effective manner to lead people in a process of clarifying and achieving what they want. This is how clients understand a solution and own it afterwards.

most of the times. know-how. in the largest meaning. I hope that it is clear throughout this study. transfer of expertise and decision support by or with the client. A management consultant is then in a broad sense. Most of the consulting firms today have an explicit component of intervention: helping the client to build strategies. by planning or by help to run implementation projects. decision advice. a “consultant” would be a mere comedian. an activity or an enterprise. be it by awareness. the essence of any consulting is authentic expertise. to people who do work and have some issue to manage. decision advice Further. Without relevant knowledge. but also. real expertise. the authority and the impact of that advice and its resulting in action. Intervention Consulting Difference 6 . the consultant is a professional in giving advice that is relevant. in forms that are helping things to happen. From a corporate director in a top responsibility role to a private individual. experience or talent. All consultants are thus management consultants. the concern when seeking counsel is to manage a problem or an opportunity. solving problems to the extent of producing results. to other people. and actually becomes nowadays. the consultant to suggest. the client-centred attitude. project planning and launching across the organisation. to people who carry out decisions. a change. even order the best solution. Transfer of expertise and decision support You complete a consulting service with a solution and with help to turn it into results. Valuable expertise is the pre . Management consulting is offered to deciders. The difference is most probably in the degree of competence. But wise consultancy should be. The consultant shares with everybody else on the planet the capacity to give advice. to replace the riskier forms of one-best-way assertion and turnkey solution. as I already insisted that in spite of the importance of “communication skills” and of “general consulting competencies”. expert work done on behalf of a client.requisite to bear in mind while this study stresses the competency to convey usefully.Forecasting. The consulting advice is always informing and supporting decisions made by the client. a person who gives advice that helps to manage: a situation. that is. The client prefers.

project management follow-up is included and makes most of the income in a consulting firm. uninvolved. Consulting Difference 7 . You cannot ask. tactic. that of a priest. That service used to consist in an audit and some strong “strategic” or restructuring concept billed fast. But I also would use another metaphor. For an example I am aware that this study is a form of organisational intervention (when it is read and accepted). believe that inquiry modifies its object. Often. To cut a long debate short. and to result in objective conclusions. The consultant is required to respond to it) and to help the client to cope with whatever the environment is giving by proposing an adequate strategy. Social scientists. Some schools. A consultant is supposed to help and facilitate change to actually happen. On the other hand. consider that “process” and “intervention” are the must of the profession. action plan or tool. analyse. Such clients expect consultancy to be scientific. many clients do not accept to have things done onto them. However. This is opposed to an obsolete “hit and run” style of management consulting. or lawyers. One last defining expectation towards consultants: Traditional consulting is responsive.Intervention used to be a debated part of a consulting assignment. with no further responsibility and no follow-up commitment from the consulting company. who is concluding the marriage (between supplier and buyer for an example) properly. I think that most consultants are assumed to intervene and to make things happen to improve their clients’ situation and business. This is similar to teachers growing one’s knowledge. the most important and change management intervention expected from all consultants is change management support. Project management. like modern physicists. mainly of social and political science origin. without himself getting married to either of the parties. The client (or the virtual client) perceived a need. solution. has an intention or a problem. defending one’s interests. give information or share knowledge without deep impact. doctors improving one’s health.

To quote George Bernard Shaw: “You see things and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’” Consulting Difference 8 . a creative thinker who is educating the client to do new things in new environments. Our work is the opening of new (and useful) perspectives. and the active support given to people to change and to make their own future.New directions in consulting are proactive. The “high-end” consultant is a Socratic entrepreneur. The most valuable benefits of consulting come from generating change and leading transformation.

Risk. Quality knowledge. “Out-of-the-box” exploring and transformation. know-how and experience are required. vagueness and doubt. Without risk aggravated with uncertainty. 5. I like to list five motives (these causes are boiled down from literature about change. Worst. complexity and incompetence. Transient need for unique expertise. uncertainty. People do not ask for billable advice spontaneously. Change-pace. if they could manage it by themselves.Five reasons behind the need for consulting The need that is to be met by a consultant is certainly very simple at first sight. People love to share risk. Honest people are struggling with wicked ambiguity (no serious and objective definition is available). complexity and incompetence The first motive of requiring the services of a consultant is risk. The driving force is the need to share and diminish a risk. 2. But the reasons behind the perceived need are deeper. instead of using one’s own resources. A familiar setting seems to be found every time a consultant is opening a door. some work is to be done. The reality is subtler. Each time I am called to give advice I would use the “list of reasons” to ask myself: “Why do they invite me? What do they hope in this case? What do I offer to meet all or some of these five reasons?” Risk. newness and surprise. change management. 3. who would ever call a consultant? Consulting Difference 9 . I must remember that this is what I have to produce – less risk. uncertainty. Otherwise. individuals and organisations do not invest in consulting. 4. Usually they do not like to involve outsiders. Behind the requirement for work to be done there are specific motives to call in consultants to do that work. some help is needed. Everything is just too complex around. at least some hosts hide a guilty feeling of ignorance. knowledge transfer and management consulting also from the experiences shared by many consultant colleagues) in order of priority: 1. Conflict and influence.

The daily business of a consultant is diplomacy. in a unique expertise business. With no exception. there is a temporary need for some unique high level expertise. I believe that consulting (under many names) is an explosively growing business. the subject of consulting is change. world wide. newness and surprise Newness and its pace are the next best reason for calling upon a consultant. and with the traditional education methods. under the current demographic trends. Transient need for There is often a purely economic consideration in hiring external or periodically reassigning internal consultants. others hope to use the consultant as a weapon. Consulting Difference 10 . Part of the client may want an impartial referee. Persons allergic to incompetence cannot be consultants. This may be very good news for some of us. Individuals and organisations call consultants to help others cope with the surprises of change and adapt to its pace. The “outsider” is necessary and is called to confirm something or to convince somebody or even to do something that the “natives” do not want to do themselves. a facilitator or a negotiator. While the need for creative knowledge workers able to support change-management is growing. it means that we are in business for life. Change-pace. Conflict and influence Very often. the school and university systems world-wide are unable to produce such a competency. At a given moment. are critical in the practice of consulting. The technological speeds achieved and the acceleration of social processes create an ever increasing need for support from people and organisations capable to learn the new things and unlearn the old ways.Tolerance to incompetence and the respectful readiness to help with patience people who do not know. because of the way our Civilisation evolves. there is another hidden factor behind calling a consultant: conflict. There is always an expectation of influence. “Consultants” can be an answer.

attractive in turbulent times. and to understand their implications. Most of the driving forces quoted above as calling for homeostatic consulting. i. not for the clients. responses that come from the future..The massive use of external or. inviting responsive “problem-solving-and-trouble-shooting” work. i.. with their own suppliers and clients. The companies of this ever smaller world can only survive and be successful if they are “homeorhetic”. the heavy organisational and social bodies need assistance to explore new ways. Therefore. The approach of proactive consultancy is also “value chain” conscious. Consultants work only where they are needed. Recently we can see consultancy used to diminish social obligation towards costly workforce.e. It looks into the future. doing new. The “high end” of consulting is dedicated to enterprise undergoing crisis. “Out-of-the-box” exploring and transformation Exploration consultancy (often named “out-of-the-box” or “strategic”) is a different mindset. The aim is to advise the clients how to re-think themselves in order to achieve more and win. what is required is not feedback but “forefeed”. We should go beyond trying to solve our client’s problems by a solution sold to them.e. things done never before. To survive and thrive. expansion or substitution. It is apparent now that being strategic is not doing the same things you did and your competitors did. When transformation stops. internal Consultants may even be an elegant (or expedient) solution to the ever changing Organisation sizes and structures. We must work for the client’s clients. a special type of service. Strategy means today at least doing the same things differently and better. proactive consulting is required. Exploration doesn’t concentrate on the past. if they maintain stability not by sustaining a steady state but through permanent improvement and transformation. even better. they decline. Let me coin an expression for this. My guess is that consultancy will be the most important “job” of the next century. forever better. in their evolving environment or market. Consulting Difference 11 . different things. nor the present.

You must find every day new blood to give to your clients.Last. your energy and your enthusiasm. what most companies and individuals expect from consultants is “fresh blood”. new ideas. (I hope my readers and potential clients will pardon this joke). In the end of the day if you are not exhausted you didn’t work well enough. This is a vampire business. Consulting Difference 12 .

The “consulting difference” I used to teach these six rules of thumb as six sources of professional power: 1. things simple People need advice and guidance because of uncertainty. When things are too complicated. He can explain things as complicated as they exactly are. As we saw earlier. He can explain how manageable things are. A rhetoric of action 6. The power to make This sentence looks elementary. The tactic of giving a choice 4. Whoever is able to make things simple gains power. Politicians know that only too well. The pragmatic attitude 3. that is why they need help. Some consultant colleagues seem to appreciate them as directions of self-assessment and self-improvement. Consulting Difference 13 . The N1 strategy 5. A good consultant can explain with simplicity. individuals and groups alike feel and fear loss of control. They need help to diminish the complexity. Let me summarise this consulting difference: A good specialist can explain with precision. Let me explain. It is not. The power to make things simple 2. An art of change I present them as six signs useful to diagnose who is and who is not a consultant. I am certain that clients could use them to evaluate and buy quality consulting.

in simple words. A consultant clarifies the sufficient. The relevant subject is what can be done rather than how complex the causes and mechanisms are. you prefer to leave the model open. a university professor in electronics and automation. Then you compare with it the complicated thing to explain.. You lead people from what they know towards what they do not know. factual. The benefit is to help people be and feel in control. anything but a scientist). Moreover. Analogy The most important explaining method of a consultant is analogy. I asked him to help me solve some simple problem of mathematics for the next day. Consulting Difference 14 .. Metaphors do not explain. They provoke thought. a journalist and a teacher and. What did you learn from them? What do you think we should consider now? The typical comments could be:     This reminds me of a similar case from my own practice. but just too complicated. finally. used to speak to me. true. a consultant... you find an example that people understand and figure. Like Socrates. It is the way my father. He wanted to explain all mathematics (this is probably why I became a psychologist. Let us look at this model and see how to adapt it… I found that someone had a very useful explanation of this… This is how it happened and how we did. The typical questions could be:    Did you experience something like this? Tell me about similar cases that you encountered.While listening to an explanation given by an expert. the normal urge of a client is to delegate it back to the specialist. It is precise.

What we can do. prevail. Consulting is serving something personal and biased... As experts we are committed to accurate completeness and perfection. A consultant practises the opposite of the expert attitude. The same person may have to play alternatively the two roles... our authority. science. art. it serves peoples’ actions and interests. People will understand better if we put it this way. The pragmatic attitude Pragmatism in consulting means to be client-centred and biased towards results. faith. Actions are not something that is given. profit.The typical suggestions could be:       By comparison. our technology. In “good. but something that is making.. The difference between expert and consultant is not a matter of expertise but of role and human impact. serious work” our field of expertise. Most of us learned in school to value and be guided by a “discipline”... The key points seem to be. beyond daily life. a “content matter”. truth. ideal. something impersonal. We turn our face to the field we explain and not to the people we explain it to.. justice.. Both must have the expertise but they use it differently. The difficulty is that the more one acts expert the less one is consultant.. Expert and expert-consultant are two different vocations. is. Consulting Difference 15 ... you have a choice to deal with it by the following ways. This goes against our education. I went through this myself and I observed some errors to avoid. I will not confuse you with all the jargon and all the details.

the timing. It is knowledge-centred. A skilled consultant will not speak before listening. to learn some of his words. the intention. empathy. usually imperfect. This is a heretical view of methodology. Valuable advice is mind-size for this client. He has first to understand this client. individual or Organisation succeed. here and now. this. their feelings and legitimate interests. and situational. The choice of method will fit the concrete subject but also will consider the situation. right now. but a relative achievement. “Man is the measure of all things” as Protagoras said. The ethic of the consultant is to consider the issues and the knowledge available.The aim of consulting is to help. their readiness to understand. This may be wrong in philosophy but it is quite appropriate in practice. to share his meanings and interests. in good faith. Indifferent consulting is coming with “right” methods and ready-made answers. Client centring Consulting Difference 16 . from the angle of the client’s best interest. This client is not impersonal and success is not complete. Client-centred consulting will start by walking a mile in the client’s shoes. technology-centred or psychology centred. nor objective. the people concerned. feasibility and finally. We have a bias for clients and for getting things done. It is a very common view of wisdom. practical. getting results. Trust. purpose. reliability. are more important in consulting than the means of method and precision.

You cannot be sent to consult people against their will. motivated by human benefit. Even more so. if you want to change somebody’s mind you must know first where that mind is and start from there. The consultant will do his work by considering the world trough the eyes of the client instead of serving one of the distant entities we all learned to be the ultimate. There are rules of thumb for client-centred consultancy. This is the client-centred attitude. much. “if you want to have friends. only based on trust. Let me share what I think to be some rules of thumb in practising clientcentred consulting: You cannot consult fairly people you dislike. Consulting Difference 17 . Advice which neglects individual interest is uninteresting. Research in psychology concluded amazingly that the (positive) attitudes and feelings of a therapist are more important to cure illness than the school of theory used and its scientific value. if the client is wrong or you know much. be a friend”.A solution is something feasible and acceptable. An effective consultant is “client-friendly” and the client becomes his friend. more about the subject. Clients are persons. to a person or to a group. but here and now. The method to use is simple. not in general. Have only one client at a time! You have credibility and you are effective as an adviser. This is shocking but meaningful.

they do too. deepest. A consultant’s role is. A written or informal contract must clarify this at the very start of a consulting assignment. know yourself. Withholding knowledge is a symptom of little knowledge. One error in this and you are “burnt”. You do not need to be a psychologist to understand people. are the ones shared by most people on earth. Don’t withhold your best secret knowledge. most intimate concerns and motivations. Avoid doing things for the client if you can help the client to do them. not the runner. to be the coach. the circumstances too. imagine yourself in their situation and take time to observe and check your assumptions. but also as a basic method. but let the clients help themselves to it! Clients will accept and use only as much as they are ready to understand and receive. Moreover people grow fond of the harvest they grew. The point of view and some vectors may differ. Therefore common sense is a good guide. Consulting Difference 18 . Our own. if you want to know people. and will defend it with a feeling quite different from the evaluation of something “easy coming. Coaching Offer advice. You can take the horse to the water but you cannot make him drink.Ethically speaking. As you fear and wish. at his best. it is out of question to report on a client or to breach confidentiality. but not the human nature. easy going” and “not done here”.

This is achieved by designing alternatives “out-of-the-box” or by pointing at choices. You are “doomed” to be always one step ahead. Freedom is the number of choices that you can understand and make (or chose not to make). the ethical aim of increasing freedom and the prudence of risk sharing. I mean by that a style to give life to everything he touches. not to posses. you are inevitably the one better prepared to learn even more from it. when you share the best of your knowledge for the particular use of a client. empower and delegate. judge and control. Wisdom is a treasury that grows as you give it away. This attitude achieves a “transfer of ownership” and requires a dash of ego-sacrifice. Let go! Your work is to educate. This makes people think. and feel enthusiasm. Consulting Difference 19 . At the personal mastery level we can see the excellent consultant as one who has “the green finger”.You can recognise by this defensive attitude the specialist of limited or declining competence. I believe that the moral aim of a consultant is to create degrees of freedom for a people who saw none or few. participate. On the contrary. To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: When a fine consultant accomplished his work. Do not wary of becoming exhausted. to water and grow the seed he finds rather than reproducing his own models. realise themselves. The tactic of giving a choice There are two main reasons for using this tactic. people will say: “We did it alone!” (Who needed a consultant anyway?).

risks. since consulting is a game of risk sharing. Someone who gives one imperative advice may be a manager. and does not control the way the advice is applied. with your contribution and assistance. He has no budgeted resource to carry on the project. the consultant does not have all the information. will choose to help other people understand. Often. Let me use the metaphor of “kangaroo consulting” (a big leap forward with an empty pocket) to describe the risky practice that is to give only one best way solutions. unless he becomes a project manager. a sales agent or an expert. Consulting Difference 20 . When your work is well done the clients themselves design a consulting solution. The consultant should reason in favour of one course of action. is not in charge of the decisions to be taken. A consultant. is to include the implementation project management follow-up in the consulting project.On the other hand. with scenarios clarifying benefits. A professional way to handle this problem is to present always alternatives of solution. causes and consequences. to share properly the responsibility and the ownership of solutions. it is necessary for the professional survival of the adviser and for the sustainable success of the assignment. Another way of resolving the ownership issue well understood by most consulting firms. decide and achieve. circumstances. but the decision must be knowingly taken by the client or at least shared “50/50” with the client. Giving one piece of advice and leaving may lead to an unpleasant later question: “Who had this idea anyway?” The “cost of sale” of turnkey advice can be high.

Something is “impossible” to solve. instead of getting confused. Often. As one of my colleagues liked to say. Teach an individual or groups just that mind-size or “N+1” little bit more knowledge and skill. This allows the clients to comprehend and learn. creative mind to see a way out of the “impossible” situation. i. N+1 means to consider always the larger view.The N1 strategy This is the heart of consulting value. that are sufficient and necessary to answer the current need. If it looked possible to them they would not require a consultant. ending up to see that the key to a company problem is in the wider system of its market. What they need is a fresh eye and an unfettered. A broad and effective rule to add value as a consultant is to try always to address an issue at the next higher level or at the next deeper level. “when you put cheese into the mouse trap. to seek solutions to a group’s concerns at the next higher hierarchical level and so on. The person or group seeking consulting is usually “stuck” with something. When dealing with Organisations. The simplest way of applying this strategy is an educational method. There are many levels of practising this principle. N1 is a paradigm of strategy concerning the core of the added value of a consulting intervention. a wrong perspective obscures the way out “they believe that they are building a hill when in reality they are only digging a pit”. don’t forget to leave room for the mouse”.. Much deeper than the tactic of mind-size advice and next higher level problem solving. Solving impossible problems Consulting Difference 21 .e...

in a wider one.It appears that the successful consultants have a habit of “reframing” by asking.. “N+1” or “N-1” questions like:       “What defines this situation as impossible?” “For whom?” “What is so obvious that nobody even dreams of challenging it?” “Can we alter some factors which make it impossible?” “Can we redefine the problem?” “Is it a problem?” Other “N+1” or “N-1” questions could be:         “What would happen if we don’t do anything?” “Who decides in fact?” “Do these people have a way to know what they don’t know?” “Why has this fact. I have good reason to be optimistic about the practical value of applying this tool. obvious to me. The practical consequence I draw from this subtle epidemic discovery is that when I need to change a basic assumption that makes a problem. The N1 strategy is a prime indicator of the consulting competence. It allowed me to build a strategy session for company executives. go unnoticed until now?” “How does the whole thing look at the level of the department?” “Which part is this in the picture of the whole Organisation?” “What is the position of the client in his market?”. “In what business is this client. themselves and other people. beyond his vision today?” This N1 strategy has a solid grounding in Goedel’s theorem: you can test the basic assumptions of a system only outside that system. you cannot work miracles but you know that you will make a difference as an adviser. Armed with this tool. that appears to really get people “out of the box”. I must (at least mentally) suspend the rule and “dig under the system”. Consulting Difference 22 ..

is determined by: 1. despite your logic. Consulting Difference 23 . But all three can be consciously prepared and “built up” by concrete attitudes and behaviours that one can learn. explains Aristotle. Pathos and Logos: credibility of the source. It needs expertise first. persuasion does not happen. your authentic competence and your best advice. aimed at a public deliberating on the past or voting about the future.Ethos. 2. all ending up in actionable conclusions. Third and most important. 3. reliable person. your obvious good will towards this person or group. the image you give as a person of common sense and practical wisdom. the transfer must meet its purpose and have impact. Aristotle described three conditions of impact . based on experience with the subject (not a dreamer). Ethos Ethos .who you are for an audience. rapport with the listeners and understandable proofs. honest. Otherwise. Ancient rhetoric was concerned with a speaker’s art of one way persuasion. your identity established as a moral. If any of the three is not granted by renown or is otherwise questioned. The three are situational and personal. Then the expertise has to be transferred and understood.The rhetoric of action Expert consulting is a three-legged activity. Rhetoric is the technique of purposeful impact in communication. the consultant must do something to build up ethos.

listen. in their own terms. While there is much more to Ancient Rhetoric. discuss. To accomplish this. observe. until they know how much you care). practical and suggest concrete decision and action. and do some shared activity. Do concrete actions to relate and to interact with them (like for example take time. 3. (If you don’t do so. but concrete. you need to do the next three things: 1. Logos Logos means here “the word” not “logic”. meanings shared by the audience rather than speaking precise jargon. ask questions..). A communication tactic adapted to our times goes beyond the effort to influence public decision by means of persuasive speech. The force of your argument (remember. the clients decide by themselves and carry out their own plan. 2. Present conclusions that appear as useful. not general and distant. enough was said here. intuitive and of local relevance like in a court of justice. Care for their interests. You have to address in your speech the concerns and the feelings of the audience.frame and the “action .Pathos I would describe pathos as “being on the same wavelength” with your public (otherwise how can you hope that they receive your message?). By such involvement. The actions must appear as feasible and match the resources.mood” of the listeners. the time .. I would emulate Aristotle’s advice with a modern rhetoric of action. your aim is decision and action) is increased by following three rules: 1. Use words and models understandable here and now. A contemporary concern is the involvement of a target audience in the elaboration of a solution and the transfer of solution ownership. 2. Give proofs and examples. 3. concerns and feelings at the present moment (people do not care how much you know. you are most probably speaking in the desert). This vector is defined by the clarity of things you say and by the way you defend and illustrate your case. Consulting Difference 24 .

clarify and formulate the common understanding and finally. Most consulting assignments originate and bring (unexpected and sometimes painful) change to other people. Repeat business for you could be big change for a client. Most of the successful client-centred consulting methods can be summarised by such scenarios. for a new-born. elsewhere. I am afraid that formal change management procedure will have to wait. there are no old jokes. including you. An art of change is dedicated to managing surprise.Let me describe a rhetoric of action as a pull approach to complete the force of persuasive argument: first elicit the client’s own perceptions and knowledge. An art of change Consultants are inseparably involved with change in several ways. The profession is perpetually coping with transience. Remember. This aspect of surprise is the one that requires art. we have to consider that even more often change is a premiere for all the parties involved. any joke is a world premiere. when they are really new. Against Surprise Consulting Difference 25 . I develop this broad subject and the methodologies to use. Let me only shortly mention that managing surprise consists in three strategic ways: preparing against surprise. cannot be defined in advance. as artificial intelligence is still not here. then display. frequent surprise and Newness. help the clients to build their “done here” solution. Finally. This method is explained in detail in my favourite workshop the “Consulting Masterclass". the expectation is that a consultant will help change to happen by supporting it and by handling some risks. preparing for surprise and preparing the surprise. There is no good general procedure for this art. The simple logical reason is that authentic change is about Newness. However. Things.

The most important consequence to the “unplannable Newness” assumption is that the ultimate instruments in change management are the consultant and his clients as persons armed with “live intelligence” and prepared for surprise. the ability to learn from our own and other peoples’ past errors and experiences. in a nutshell.Preparing against surprise is an effort to analyse the laws of reality and of adapting to them. may be more dangerous than useful. From the mid-eighties I dedicated a “Masterclass of change management” to the “crash” development of the ability to prepare for surprise for corporate teams engaged in major business transformation. The “art of change” is then. The mistake is to first set a bottom line. Consulting engagements can be seen as projects but their specific features are to be non-recurring. finally to lose face when forced to cope with reality. Setting objectives. non-routine and loosely structured. But freezing forecasts or scenarios as plans. strategies and alternative tactics for change helps us deciding where we want to go and planning how to get there. I like to call this fallacy “the planagement of change”. This cannot be a good model for consulting. Most of the future can not be planned. rules and procedures about what must be done. Rigid instructions about how to deal with surprise or how to “implement change” are as clumsy as positional bargaining. Consulting Difference 26 . This is the dominant practice. next to dig oneself into a fixed position and then. The cost of complexity analysis. and to help our clients not to repeat those same errors. and of the formal description needed to package “consulting applications” or “change management solutions” is very high. as if things had to happen in a prescribed way. The high-value knowledge worker relies on an intuitive and metaphorical “database” of personal knowledge. It may be much higher than breeding individual consultants as “sages” and training them (and their client organisations) to cope with the unknown and the inevitable surprises.

They are also effective in marketing a quality service and a “house style” for a consulting firm. The talent is born but the craft is learnt through general culture and through personal experience. ideas. in organisational development and in society. if they please. I don’t argue against “packaged consultancy”. In complex situations. the persistence of solutions that were successful in the past becomes a main reason for failure.wisdom” can also be learnt by observing and by imitating “masters” who possess long time experience in their evolving field. This is true both for the content expertise and for the consulting skills. The more an environment is ill structured and unpredictable. is like Culture. form the competitive advantage of a change . This Lamarckian error is apparent in natural history. their sense of timing and their treasury of personal knowledge. nor against “consulting process” descriptions and quality standards to be used by apprentice . Moreover a package has the important feature of being a saleablelabelled activity.For Surprise It is probably more effective to educate ourselves for surprise with state-of-the-art models.friendly consultant. But high-end consultancy. the “how to” models are vital to teach consulting competencies to thousands of specialists. Therefore. broad general culture. Such people can share. more user-centred and executive . effective judgement and action are personal. the more the “tool” is the Consultant.centred than readymade. Fast unlearning and a general education rather than a specific training. There is yet another handicap of change recipes. it is reasonable to learn about change as an art. “Change . When the conditions change. An experienced mentor can share informal wisdom about what is good to do and what is better not to do.consultants. Commercial firms need more of them. Consulting Difference 27 . tools and experiences on how to deal with surprise than to project-plan the future. it is what remains after you forgot everything you ever learned in school.

There is no unchanging recipe for applied change-management and. simulations that induce discovery and learning on safe ground). Everybody agrees that we need to practice novel thinking and initiative out of the box. One is to find out the limits of what we know.An example can show which style or stratagem is applicable when you are confronted with a particular opportunity or even when you meet the unexpected. Instead of a conclusion. challenge the obvious Consulting Difference 28 . Why always wait for surprise to come from somewhere else? I believe that this is the essence of strategy. stronger than any formal instruction (provided that the mentor himself has a rich experience with change). attempting to change the course of change by inventing new. our own most basic assumptions and challenge them. The question is how to do it. As a complement to experience on-the-job and to Mentoring. to learn about what we don’t know and to systematically trespass into the unknown and the impossible. relevant experience can be hard to learn. My proposal is in short that there are two practical ways to advance. The third and most proactive option of change management is to prepare the surprise itself. They keep their value as long as they remain stateof-the-art. The other one. Mentoring is an approach to educating for change.. there is no end to a consultant’s apprenticeship The consultant’s content expertise and some of his know-how are highly perishable.g. The Surprise Trespass into the unknown. or better said the other face of the same effort is to examine the obvious. unexpected ways of doing things and new things altogether. This leads us back to the notion of N1. without experiences both with success and with failure. it is possible to “scaffold” the acquisition of change management competency by structured forms of experience transfer (e.

successful yesterday and still respectable today.The comparison may seem cruel but I think that as a top professional. which current beliefs. the most important things I believe I learnt. At least one third of the working time of a mature consultant has to be dedicated to recharging batteries and to further education. but knowing where to find it when you need it). if you want to really learn something. which skills. If there is a stable core to the competency making a consultant different. he will sink and drawn. This means updating of content expertise. were how to select early from a flood of confusing “knowledge” how to doubt my own successful recipes and how to forget fast. I would call this a purposeful cultivation of boredom and of curiosity. In my own experience as a psychologist. design and testing of new methods. general culture. Consulting Difference 29 . which ways currently followed by everybody. in many years. are becoming obsolete and will soon be counter productive. teach it generously. But not everybody is so compelled to sense which part of the authoritative knowledge we acquired. “source building” (It’s not what you know. it can only be rate of unlearning and growth. To survive the burn out and to prosper. Learning to forget All people accumulate knowledge and acquire behaviour patterns. learning to do new things. much more than this. Wisdom is a treasury that grows as you give it away. I observe this attitude in some of the top consultants who taught me about the profession. the consultant has a feature in common with a shark. the consultant must have this kind of intuition and autonomy. the day he stops swimming. And more.

CHIN.O. Boston.G. New York.. 1990 BENNIS. J. Paris..R. 1980 BLOCK. J.A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used”. A Consumer’s Guide for Managers”. K. L. W.. CONANT. “Using Consultants. San Francisco.. New York. E. K. P. New York... Englewood Cliffs. Cambridge.. (Ed). SMITH..A.C.E.. 1990 DILTHEY. New York. Gulf Publishing Co.P.. J.p.. 1980 Consulting Difference 30 . “The ‘Art’ of Rhetoric”.....D.. A.. Cambridge.. “Getting new Clients”. “The Planning of Change”. 1986 BELL. 1970 GREINER. 1942 EASTON. BENNE. “Group Consulting . COREY... New York.. 1983 HANSEN. G..... R. Houghton Mifflin Co. Edgepress. WARNER. 1981 CICERO.J.. Chicago..J.. DAVIDSON. R.. T. “Clients & Consultants”.. Houston.. D. “Informal Logic-The First National Symposium. “Consulting to Management”... DAVIDSON. Rinehart and Winston. Holt.. McGraw-Hill. H.” Radner/Winokur.. n. JOHNSON.. Learning Concepts.. “Ad C. Herennium”. Massachusetts. P. M. J.W.. “Client. W. C. Probus Publishing Co. 1978 BUDMAN. “The Consultant’s Calling”.Theory and Process”. R. John Wiley & Sons. R. Massachusetts... “Introduction a l’Etude des Sciences Humaines.SELECTED REFERENCES ARISTOTLE. 1975 BARCUS.. R. 1985 FEYERABEND.. “Flawless Consulting . METZGER. John Wiley & Sons.W. NADLER. 1981 CONNOR. R.. R. “Forms of Brief Therapy” The Guilford Press.. P... Jossey-Bass Publishers.. WILKINSON. H.. Inverness California.. S.. Prentice-Hall. “Marketing Your Consulting and Professional Services”. 1987 COTTLE. 1976 BLAIR. W. 1985 CONNOR. L. Presses Universitaires de France... Harvard University Press.Centred Service”.E.. “Against Method. Harvard University Press. W. “Handbook of Management Consulting Services”. John Wiley & Sons. A. A. Austin.. New York. 1985 BELLMAN. S.

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. T.Add value. Houghton Mifflin.... “The Art of the General”. Addison-Wesley Publ. Addison-Wesley Publ. “Client-Centred Therapy.. Co.. London. C. 1987 TENNER..Effective Role-Shaping for Staff Positions”. London. J... 1981 ROGERS.. C. “Human Inquiry”. New York. “The Role of the Internal Consultant . 1991 REASON. E.. John Wiley & Sons.(Ed). Bibl. “Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development”.. F..D. “Oeuvres completes” vol II. P. Co. 1982 SUN TZU. Ltd. “On becoming a person”. Chichester.. 1961 SCHEIN. E..” Houghton Mifflin. Boston 1951 ROGERS. R. 1969 SCHEIN. C. London. John Wiley & Sons.. 1997 TEPPER.. Boston... 1971 SVEIBY.Lessons for Managers and Consultants”.p. R. “Personal Knowledge”. Co. “Managing Know-how .. LLOYD. 1958 RASSAM. Geneva. “ Management Consultancy: The Inside Story... Routledge & Kegan Paul.. K. M.... Mercury Books.H.H. “The Art of war”. Reading.. 1987 Consulting Difference 32 . I.. Boston.. OATES.. ROWAN.. “Consultant’s Problem-Solving Workbook”. R. London. de la Pleiade NRF Gallimard. s.. “Process Consultation Volume II .E. Oxford University Press.. Reading.. by Valuing Creativity”. 1990 POLANYI. CBI Publ. Bloomsbury Publ. 1987 STEELE.PLATON.

France. the paper improved through the critiques and clarifications of meaning received from my consulting community. Sweden. The size of the first sample was 300. Belgium. Germany. Greece. during years of growth and success. more than 700 people). Inspired by action research and by grounded qualitative methodology. consulting firms and corporate clients of consulting. also in U. I try here to make simple some thirty years of study and practice in social sciences. media communication. teaching and management consulting. the interpretations I made were fed back repeatedly to the Consulting community that generated the material (in the end. Israel. thanks to my former colleagues Tamotsu Wada (1989) and Takeshi Muto (1993).S. UK. Italy. The research method was qualitative analysis of individual and group interviews. try to change it or to teach it). Between 1985 and 1995 my work was to create and manage a curriculum to develop Digital Equipment Europe’s more than 1000 European consultants. Version after version. Norway. This simple presentation was curiously successful. There are two Japanese translations of “The Consulting Difference” available for those interested.A short account of the research and the methods used The experience I used to build my normative model of consulting is cross-disciplinary. The people I learned about were. Denmark. interviews documentary study. Switzerland. a workshop-presentation illustrating this material is currently available. The actual "Consulting Difference" research represents five years of observation. also my analysis and interpretation of observed behaviour in 170 video-recorded “critical situation” role-plays and in 52 complex inter-group simulations. (almost equal to Digital’s total European Consultants’ population at the beginning of the inquiry in 1986). Hong Kong and Japan.. Consulting Difference 33 . Ireland. consultants’ managers. Holland. and teaching (when you want to know something. Digital Equipment Corporation’s Consultants across the world. Based on it I prepared a half-day teaching presentation for consultants. Its latest avatar. The first “final” edition was published in 1989.

Zen. and Sufi Eastern lore. Index and A. Socrates. And so did the years of practice with the Management Consulting Firms. and not with the scientific research of regularities. what I understood from helping other people to understand things alien to them. Lao Tze. C. Kearney between 1992 and 1997 also had a strong influence on my understanding. Psychology. Aristotle. brought to this essay at least as much as observation and interviewing. Esop. S.Over the years I presented the “Consulting Difference” variants more than a hundred times and elaborated on the subject with many more consultants and executives in several countries and companies. Consulting with major firms like C. Education. Consulting Difference 34 . T. Ancient and Modern Rhetoric. Social Sciences. I must say that this paper is now concerned with the search for wisdom and practical solutions. What I learned from readings in Consulting. Kahlil Gibran. This interaction insured a “sanity check” and a way to enrich my interpretation of” common sense data” referred to in the initial study.

Ciba. Consulting Difference 35 . South Africa and the U. change management and leadership skills for management consultants and senior managers engaged in corporate business change projects. Index. The Consulting Difference Workshop . for 15-25 people) The Consulting Difference Workshop is an advanced development programme in communication. C.An intensive course in consulting development and change management skills (4 1/2 .TWO LEARNING EVENTS BASED ON THE "CONSULTING DIFFERENCE" CONCEPT The subjects presented in the "Consulting Difference" essay are applied and developed in a concrete form by a number of education and change management events. S. Here are two of them: 1.A. T. Asia. It also supports the start-up of a new business improvement project where the organisation will work together with a team of consultants and where it is useful to clarify the roles and to vent and resolve typical concerns towards being involved with consultants. Kearney/EDS to develop their own management consultants and to help their clients manage large business transformation assignments. It was used by companies like DEC. residential. In this latter case it is very useful to organise the event for the internal project team and the external consultants together. Under the name “Consulting Masterclass” and “Change Management Masterclass”.3 1/2 days. Rolls Royce and A. C.S.An interactive presentation and discussion (2-4 hours) This is a 2 -3 hours event presented to management teams who want to make best use of consultants or to develop consultants in their own company. The Consulting Difference teaching-presentation . Australia. 2. this workshop has a twelve years record of success with national and multinational companies in Europe.

The Consulting Difference Workshop. action items to support change management. The workshop thrives to adapt its content. After the workshop the team and its management retain tools and. This is achieved by building the individual consultant’s and the consulting/change management team’s capabilities to work together. focus and form. rationality and openness in the relationships within the team and the organisation at large.    Consulting Difference 36 . will provide the following benefits:    Visibly increase the ability and the confidence of the participants to develop their own “out of the box” solutions and tactics in dealing with their work. group and company communication. and to involve whole organisations. Develop the ability to take ownership and further transfer ownership of business solutions. Increase the effectiveness and the quality of individual. collaboration and communication style. when needed. The workshop activities create a positive team climate of “can do” in dealing with change management objectives and issues. managers or experts engaged in major change. to fit the specific change management context and current priorities of each team. joint teams of external consultants and internal project teams. Beyond skills. this programme develops shared culture and goals. Intended audience: senior experts/consultants and senior managers involved in business change and improvement. strategy and tactics to be directly used by teams of consultants.Objectives: The objective of the workshop is to develop high level consulting competence and to initiate unique thinking. Advance the participants towards becoming a cross-functional leadership team. Foster trust. creative vision. The workshop is prepared by needs-analysis interviews and design customisation. Prepare the team to optimally deal with potential critical situations in large transformation projects and changing environments where different organisational and national cultures meet. Build a base of consistent shared meaning and common goals to connect a culture of high expertise with a culture of tangible business results.

Dealing with transience: meanings of change. Organisational cultures: the implications of cultural features in establishing a successful game plan of enterprise transformation. influencing intra-group and inter-group processes . introducing change and helping change to succeed. acquired a number of creative strategies for solving “impossible problems”. refreshing learning experience that makes the team feel ‘re-charged’ and motivated to work together. with many tactics of communication and facilitation. Consulting Difference 37 .Personal and team benefits of the participants: As an outcome of the programme the participants will have:          refreshed and enriched their “personal tool kit” and their team practice. groups styles. 7. tools of individual. illustrated with tools to use and rules of thumb. and communicate new understanding. 2. strategies and tactics. influencing and leading people: knowing oneself and others (self-analysis grid). strategies and rules of thumb in coping with it. lived an exciting. 3. 6. to create strategic newness. steps. 4. Critical situations in consulting and change: role plays of typical situations . Strategic creativity: ways to manage the unknown. exchanged.preparing against and for surprise. 5. The core competencies of making an impact by means of leadership and advice. Knowing. The workings of groups and the facilitation designs: working with new groups. Key topics: 1. presented and discussed within the frame of ancient and modern rhetoric. experienced several levels of complexity and surprise in a co-operation and competition situation shared as much applied social science and multi-cultural “change wisdom” as possible within four and half days and accumulated a harvest of useful. group and organisation communication and expertise transfer. compared and tested their experiences and ideas with their colleagues.the main models. considered the implications of organisational cultures in their current work. deal with impossible situations. observed or role played some ‘critical situations’ of organisational change related to their own experience or projects. learned alternatives of consultancy models. practical ideas. Communication tactics: models. appreciating and addressing motivation levels with impact. personal styles and responses.

Often we can apply the strategies and the skills to the specific issues of current work: Effective Communication with the target groups.fr Net site: http://tenner. CH [+4122] 772 02 92 France [+33] 3 8444 0937 Mobile:[+41] (0) 78 7111 408 E-mail: tenner@wanadoo. communication across organisational boundaries.a synthesis of the programme.D. Tel/Fax/Answering: Geneva..net Consulting Difference 38 . Ioan Tenner Ph.9. Co-operation and competition: simulation of a complex process of co-operation and competition . preparing against (and for) critical situations in implementing specific projects. During the workshop there will be several sessions of syndicate work.cjb. creative strategy and tactics in change management. dealing with transition and many others.