In which I ponder on why I haven’t used instruments and profiles in my consulting work in leadership development or helping organisations to bring about change (the post is after the light hearted questionnaire below).
A recent post on this blog was on how we often treat concepts or ideas as physical things and attribute the properties of physical things to them, such as thinking we can manipulate and manage culture as though it were a physical thing (here). In the comments on that post, a discussion has begun in a spontaneous way about the place of instruments (assessments or questionnaires) in dealing with complex processes of interaction in organisations.
Like many consultants, I am accredited to administer and facilitate workshops based on the Team Management Profile offered by TMS.
I have to confess though that I haven’t used the profile in my consulting work, even though I like it enough to have become accredited to run it. I have plenty of experience of other profiles as well (e.g. Myers-Briggs, Lominger competency profiles, Gallup Strengths Finder, Gallup Engagement Survey, 15FQ+, LSI, HBDI, AVI, Belbin, EQ, 360 degree and others) and I haven’t used them much either. And yet all of them have something to offer, certain compelling points of difference in the way they are presented, in what they claim to measure and in what insights they offer.
I’ve been pondering on why it is that I am not now drawn to profiles. In fact I seem not to be finding them helpful to my clients, even though I have been able to help clients to make sense of different profiles they have bought or undertaken. At times I have helped them to make decisions about how (or whether) to roll these instruments out across their organisation.
When I started out as a consultant in independent practice, I thought that it was important that if a client needed a profile, I should be accredited to provide one, otherwise I might miss out on work. I am aware of other consultants who have the same idea. Somehow, in the five years since I have been in operation, I myself have never found a client who needed a profile, and I’ve been busy with client work. During that period, other consultants have done dozens and hundreds of administrations of such instruments – in fact it’s a staple part of business for a number of consultants.
After a couple of years I realised that this was at least partly because I didn’t see my client’s issues as things that could be resolved by reference to profiles.
I am conscious that sometimes clients want someone to implement "xyz profile" and that there are consultants who do this. Often clients have a particular solution in mind when they talk to a consultant. If they don’t, they certainly have a business problem when they ask a consultant for help.
I have come to realise that how the consultant frames up the solution has a big influence on the solution they offer. If a consultant has a profile, then they will very quickly see in client situations, applications for that profile. I suppose this a variation of "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything will appear like it’s a nail." And you will have no option but to try banging it with your hammer. Shame if it’s not a nail but a rather painful blister.
But I think it’s more subtle than that, in spite of the joke questionnaire at the top of this post, courtesy of flickr.com. Perhaps it is partly a factor of "I have a solution, now let’s find someone I can flog it to." But I suspect that most consultants do not think this is what they are doing.
I think it’s more that becoming experienced in the profile does give you a certain way of looking at the world, a certain vocabulary, a certain theory about what is going on. A certain habitus as Pierre Bordieu and my colleague Chris Mowles would say. If that’s your theory and vocabulary, then you will see organisational situations in terms of that theory and vocabulary. And no doubt you will also be able to convince clients to try out your solutions.
In my work with my clients I have become more interested in exploring "How are we looking at the world?" Our conversations are rooted in the present world of experience. When abstractions come up I bring the conversation back to what is currently happening. Perhaps that is why I am not feeling the need for instruments at the moment.