Organizational Renewal: Go into That Forest

Not seeing the forest for the trees is keenly relevant at this intersection in time; while the “trees” (nesting, isolating, distancing, and remote work) are obvious, the future is not yet clear.

Perhaps the thought of renewal or change makes you cringe – don’t let it.  Remember the Chinese symbols for a crisis? One half – Wei – represents threat or danger and the other – Jinopportunity.  Astute leaders recognize significant possibilities for change and renewal for the future.

One of the most effective approaches to change can be process consultation. It is time-tested, accessible, and a powerful tool for all-size and sector organizations. I consider it one of those best-kept secrets that can pave the way for meaningful and lasting change.

The roots of process consultation are highly diverse. I view this approach as an “open inquiry” informed by integrity and respect for all parties.  Kurt Lewin, known for his pioneering change work known as action-learning and Carl Rogers, who developed the client-centered approach to psychotherapy (change and growth) are often cited as primary contributors to this approach.

Edgar Schein, considered by many to be one of the most influential organizational development (OD) luminaries today, developed a model of principles and steps of process consultation.  Schein’s (1999) model was a radical departure from what he termed the Selling and Telling model used by organizations for decades.

The Selling and Telling (Doctor & Patient) model: 

  • The doctor considers the “problem statement” from the patient at face value and formulates a diagnosis with the information provided. Translating this to the organizational setting: the absence of process (inquiry) keeps key issues hidden which invariably leads to inaccurate diagnoses resulting in faulty interventions = failed change initiatives.

The Process Consultation approach:

  • The problem statement is considered as “one part of the whole.” The process consultation model is presented to key stakeholders with an overview/rationale of the approach, key principles, and process steps.  An agreement is made to conduct an assessment utilizing open and respectful inquiry which leads to mutual problem identification, consideration of the scope of work, and intervention options.

The principles and steps outlined in Schein’s (1999) model can be formidable tools in this initiative. There are many dimensions to this model – I have found that each organization has its own personality and appreciates both the thoroughness and flexibility of this approach.  If done internally, consideration for hidden or unspoken agendas exists and should be considered.

An outside perspective can be invaluable for renewal initiatives. We can partner with you by offering guidance and support when timely.  Contact us via our contact portal or call to discuss.

Thanks for checking in this month, we wish you peace, safety, and good health.

Stay in touch,

Joe Lemmon, Ph.D. & Staff


Reference:  Schein, E. H. (1999). Process consultation revisited: Building the helping relationship. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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