Pushing against the Organizational Defenses

Image courtesy of Ilya

The concept of Masterful Consulting (see Merron) embodies the ideal of being able to see the client´s organization as a whole, to empower the people to grow and to improve, and to facilitate their becoming self-aware and self-motivating. This ideal finds its roots in humanistic psychology, but resonates soundly in the contemporary concept of Appreciative inquiry conceived as a systematic search for inner positive driving forces behind human aspiration and directed action. If the consultants fail to identify what is hindering the organization´s potential for growth and learning, it will result in a failed intervention after which the organization will remain unchanged and fading.

As a masterful consultant truly represents an (unattainable) ideal, in the consulting practice there will always be “realities” in play that will deflect and possibly thwart the intervention effort. If we separate analysis, planning, and implementation in the intervention process, then the conflicts between the change intention and the actual change execution typically manifest most visibly in the implementation phase. A minimum of five phases out of eight famously defined by Kotter, that is communicating the change vision, empowering employees, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains, and anchoring new approaches in culture, describe the consulting activities deployed in the thick of the actual change effort. As we have witnessed all too often, people resist most changes avidly, and will devise (consciously or not) intricate ways in which to boycott or soften the impact of those changes, even if they were good for them and their organizations.

The consultants need to be aware of all the potential conflicts and should be able to anticipate many of them thanks to the initial organizational diagnosis. Vigoda-Gadot and Talmud concluded their empirical research of organizational politics and job outcomes by stating that the negative effects of organizational politics could be ameliorated by “the moderating effect of trust and social support” In order for the change effort to be successful, the consultants need to be able to build high level of trust in the target community and to form strong “guiding coalition” capable of pushing the necessary changes through the organizational defenses and to tap into the sources of positive human energy that will help the organization to maintain high levels of commitment to change over extended tracks of time to make sure the changes become long-lasting and profound.

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