Consultants Are Human, Too: Part Deux

June 20th, 2009   •   no comments   
Romance With the Factory Model Continues

Humans have a strange relationship with the big concept of factories: creating specializations; developing unique workstartions; compartmentalizing work.  (Our public schools have created a system that, many believe, is an imitation of the factory.) Even high tech service organizations like insurance companies: they “chunk” the tasks and “manage workflow.”  This factory model might have the imprimatur of being efficient while, at the same time, being relatively inneffective.  Specialization has created some dangerous myopia and…we’ve all been hearing calls for more generalists for some time.

This post is sparked by another “Consultant Education” event: today’s presentation was to assist Consultants to avoid procrastination. (I’ve got lots of time to go to these things and network [that’s my real aim]; so do a lot of other consultants.)  Not a bad concept as concepts go but it ends up looking, feeling mecahnistic: Step 1: here’s the problem; Step 2: here’s what you do.  Kid stuff.  Linear.  Unholistic. 

Avoid procrastination is what we’re told: as if we’re supposed to be productive, doing something, all the time.  But, I’d like to take the devil’s advocate role on that one: What about staring off into space and letting something brilliant come to me out of the ether?  For the benefit of my paying clients, my pro bono clients?  Don’t I owe them that much?  They’re the ones who are too busy to take on the Studies that I do for them, the thinking and imagination that’s needed to come up with something breakthrough. Right?  If I’m productive all the time, how can that important work be done?  (Rhetorical.)

The factory model, I am sad to report — having now arrived at the doorstep of the Consulting profession who, oddly enough, should know better — is a recipe for a superficial approach to the work.  Factories produce goods of the same type, over and over: consultants are, ideally, supposed to produce a custom product every time.  Every time.  

I know I might be mixing too many ideas — factory models, mechanistic approaches —  in one post but…I’m passionate about getting these ideas expressed in some form: consultants, like humans, are not machines.  We as a group, need to stop being coached to be just that: a machine.  Formulaic.  Structured.  Driven by a series of models or “systems.”  What about intuition, revelation, wisdom? 

If we’re not careful, all of the efficiency experts may end up convincing us consultants that we are mechanical “thinkers,” not perhaps quite automatons, but still toiling in the “factory of the mind”™: bring in the raw materials and create a final product: some insight or knowledge. Not that easy.  Not even a thirty-something could do that.

It’s time for a holistic, encouraging view not time for a series of “gap analyses.”  To me “gap” is a dirty word suggesting a void that has to be filled.  Another mechanistic view: time for a bit or realism or holism — either one will do.

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