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  • 23 Jun 2021 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    Long ago, my graduate work focused on helping groups that needed to work together to find a way to agree and move forward. An often-used example is the university that wants to build a new dorm next to a neighborhood organization that feels encroached upon. The city's zoning board gets drawn into the fray....

    Another example is the manufacturer that needs engineering, marketing, sales and finance to get in alignment so that a new to the world product can come to the market.

    An important insight for organized discernment and decision-making like this - especially within and in between organizations is that both formal and informal  process need attention. 

    • Formal - Organized and scheduled activity that does and then governs the work among people appointed to their roles and responsibilities.
    • Informal - the conversations in the parking lots,  homes, group chats, serendipitous encounters, and diners--often after formal meetings take place, and often between a mixture of people whose voices were minor in any formal process with people who were not even in the meetings.

    When I wrote a training manual for the discernment methods that grew from my research, and then began facilitating training workshops across Canada and the U.S., I often said "There will always be informal and formal dynamics when we have important decisions to make. The trick is to have the informal inform the formal ahead of time." If we attend to the informal ahead of time we gain insight, alignment and ownership for what we decide to do. Otherwise, the informal dynamics breed undermining, resistance and passive aggression among those not asked, drawn out, or heard and understood.

    Let's say we've mastered this soft power approach to build agreement as we build organizations, make decisions, and foster movements and a heart for the world to flourish. We would be naive to believe our listening thoroughly ahead of time clears the field from all resistance.

    • Even when a normally cynical person is surprised by an honest and consistent leadership group that seeks input to inform and plan, and then actually warms up and participates, their long-used muscles to complain and resist may well kick in again after the fact.
    • Other players or dynamics usually emerge even after we were so thorough in our attempt to get broad alignment and ownership.
    • We should be prepared for cynical behaviors, even among those who stand most to benefit and may originally have been the most vocal champions.
    • We need to understand that all of the good that could have come might not come as quickly as we prefer because others will decide not to participate.
    • We must learn that an imperfect step on a longer journey and with fewer companions is far better than expecting a perfect community of perfect democracy in every organization that touches us.

    Acting nimbly, kindly, and persistently, freely brings a tempering to us, along with a burnished wisdom, rather than the impotence of escaping to seeming safety by powering up in order to bully others, to hide, or to cast blame. It brings needed conversations into a safe light where we all can participate, rather than prompting us to whisper behind our hands and in dark corners.

    As Process Consultants, what changes for us if we come to building Client Agreements expecting informal dynamics as a normal part of the process rather than being surprised by them? What if our iterative questions used in designing a process with a client helped to build the client's awareness of the need to incorporate dissent rather than alienate it? What would it look like if our awareness of our own capacity for healthy and unhealthy dissenting behaviors informed our consulting technique?

    - mark l vincent


  • 25 Feb 2021 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    As process consultants, we are often in the middle of significant transformation within organizations. Change is difficult. We know this…but what can we do to make it less difficult and more engaging for the people contributing to the process?

    This month, I interviewed Society member and Certified Process ConsultantTM Kristin Evenson of Junctures.net, a consultant and coach specializing in a brain-based approach. The audio of the interview is below the post. Kristin is also co-host of the Third Turn podcast.

    Kristin made the connection between neuroscience and consulting through professional and personal experience.  For instance, when strategic change was needed in an organization, conflict would often emerge and it would be unsettling for team members to navigate. In a personal example, when faced with life decisions her “soul would be super-engaged” but her brain would go into alarm mode.

    Why does this happen? Because the brain is inherently resistant to change and it distinguishes between a threat or a reward in 1/5 of a second…and the brain is predisposed to make negative judgments as a mode of self-preservation.  The impact of threat/reward interpretations is significant: Situations we approach as “reward” engage and enliven our thinking, helping enhance our creative thinking and collaborative abilities; situations we interpret as “threat” literally shrink our mental capacity--specifically our ability to think creatively and collaboratively.

    Kristin studied neuro-based coaching at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI). Based on extensive research, NLI recognized five specific social threats common to people in a change process. The acronym SCARF® represents the five perceived threats to a person’s sense of:

    S = status

    C = certainty

    A = autonomy

    R = relatedness

    F = fairness

    If you have ever been in a meeting and you feel uncomfortable, and you are not sure why, you might be subconsciously interpreting a social threat. Kristin said that as consultants, by being aware of social threats we can proactively facilitate opportunities for people to more easily interpret or reframe situations as a reward, rather than a threat.

    Any of the SCARF threats or combination of them puts us on the defense naturally.  It could be something from a person’s personal history that can suddenly trigger them, especially if they have been othered or treated unfairly in the past. If we as facilitators can help people reframe these threats, or at least name them, it eases the discomfort.  Pausing to acknowledge tension and emotions can calm down the limbic system and help teams to re-group.

    Kristin said, “What is so great about process consulting is it allows choices and options and people are co-creating solutions together. By handling the threats, you can increase brain capacity for thinking creatively and courageously.”

    Three steps to learn more:

    1. Listen to the 15-minute interview at the link below to get advice on how to reverse the threats.
    2. Connect with Kristin at Junctures.net and Third Turn Podcast.
    3. Take a SCARF assessment at the NeuroLeadership Institute. We all have a distinctive SCARF profile, which helps us recognize the threats we’re personally most prone to or triggered by. As consultants and facilitators, knowing your own SCARF profile can be helpful as you engage in difficult situations and help others navigate change in positive, collaborative, creative ways.

    Listen to my conversation with Kristin here.

    - Kim Stezala



  • 4 Feb 2021 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    A brief article at the back of the Economist (Rum punch and the pandemic, 9 January 2021) tells us about COVID on the island nation of Barbados and gives Process Consultants* everywhere an illustration of how a critical process gets so easily derailed by people on the seeming periphery. 

    Almost through the end of 2020, Barbados was able to keep cases to a trickle, but at the end of the year neighboring island nations identified Barbados as high risk.  What happened?  The article identifies two culprits.

    1. Controls on travelers. Even though travelers needed a negative test to come to Barbados, and even then had to quarantine until a negative second test, a number of people tested positive after arrival.

    2. Local spread. Pub crawls and holiday celebrations turned into super spreader events.

    Actually, it really is just one culprit: People. People who decide not to participate in the process, people who appear to participate in the process but in reality are not, and people who are deeply in the process but are more worried about enforcement than ongoing learning. 


    People who decide not to participate

    In Barbados, prison guards participated in one of those pub crawls. Dodds prison (St. Philip parish) then recorded more than 170 cases among staff and inmates in the days that followed.

    It isn't likely that the general population of Barbados was invited to help form the principles for community response to a health outbreak. They were just told in response to COVID, as were citizens of most nations. This lack of additional work to include the larger populations plays out in public protests, public funerals of celebrities, and larger splits among people.

    When we ask "Who needs to be consulted?"  in identifying the people and roles played in a process design with a client, the client must account for the ownership of the process and alignment with those among whom the process will be implemented. Ongoing development of a partnership must happen, or the response will be that of a victim.

     

    People who appear to participate but in reality are not

    Zara Holland, former Miss Great Britain and a minor celebrity from her time on a reality TV dating show, removed the red bracelet she needed to wear as someone who tested positive. So did her partner. They travelled around Barbados on holiday and tried to fly back to London. She has subsequently apologized to the people of Barbados and has been ordered to pay a fine. 

    This dynamic is something Kim Stezala and I labelled the Lieutenant Effect, in our article Wheel forward or spiral downward: making a choice for strategic design. Process consultants are wise to assume passive-aggressive behavior will be present from the beginning and at the highest level of client organizations. It is the highest art of the profession to name it and shine a light on it without shaming those who are likely to enthusiastically shake your hand while peeing on your shoe. 

    Why does it happen?  Change exposes weakness or a problem to address. It is easy to be embarrassed and to feel that the work to improve something is a reflection of one's incompetence. If a person does not feel safe, they are likely to extend some of the behaviors (conscious or unconscious) that added to the problem, extended the problem, or even covered up the problem until it could be hidden no longer.  It is a good consultative question to ask "Who might be threatened by this, and how might we help them feel safe?"  Also, "What might we do if someone who is important to this decides not to cooperate?"

     

    People who are deeply in the process but are more worried about enforcement than ongoing learning

    Fortunately for the people of Barbados, the prime minister is leading the process to make adjustments,  tamper-proof bracelets as a for instance. But imagine everyone downstream who has to adapt yet again and deal with the public. If they think of this as messing with their work rather than the work itself, they will represent one more slow down to an effective response.

    So much of a Process Consultant's work is keeping the lifeline of reality visible for clients to do their own work. Who, among all the leaders and organizations, can claim to have finished building and supporting the organization so that it fulfills its mission?  We are so tempted to believe this is possible, either by denying the reality of what is happening or by resisting the fix we claim to want. The Process Consultant helps to safely articulate this reality while inviting engagement within the client organization to do something real and substantial.

    Process Consultants must also be realistic.  The derailing is happening even as they get started. Better to face it now, designing process with that expectation, being surprised when it does not show up rather than denying its presence and being surprised that an elegant solution never got underway.

     

    * A good (re)primer on Process Consulting was developed in a blog post by Matt Visser, a Senior Consultant in Design Group International's community of practice.


    -mark l vincent



  • 15 Dec 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    During the recent fall season, a cohort of highly accomplished professional consultants walked through the beta test of the first curriculum designed to develop the 12 Core Competencies of Process Consulting. 

    Their responses went beyond overwhelmingly supportive to identifying this as one of the most transformative and helpful training experiences they had in their adult life. It was awesome to witness this growth and application among people I highly respect. This Process Consulting Training 201 course goes live in 2021 and is nearly already full! I look forward to serving as its facilitator for some time to come. Interested? You can register here.

    One happy and important part of my experience with developing this material was learning about and folding in some of the work done recently by the Danish scholar, Lene Rachel Andersen, especially the robust definition of Bildung she is making visible beyond the Nordic countries where it began. Here we find a framework on which to re-build home life, communities, working teams and a larger civil society during a time with so much despair about the possibility of really working together, and doing so for the welfare of generations who will follow us.  Not only were these writings of benefit to the course development, but we were able to schedule Ms. Andersen for a two-part Third Turn Podcast many are enjoying.

    To put this in perspective, Bildung implies lifelong learning that combines individual and institutional freedom with individual and institutional responsibility, doing so for the welfare of others. Without it, civilization deteriorates and flourishing ceases. With it, the field of Process Consulting has a mission to match the reasons why we humans build organizations in all sectors in the first place.

    Bildung needs to stop being an exotic word spoken by people with ski sweater collections. It needs to find its way into all our collective and global WHY.

    Take a look at our 12 core competencies:


    Download a copy of the Core Competencies.


    - mark l vincent


  • 1 Oct 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    My colleagues and fellow Society members Phil Bergey and Matt Visser collaborated on this wonderful distillation of Process Consulting and its distinctives. Enjoy!  If you would like participate in an upcoming 101 course on Process Consulting, you can register here.



    - mark l vincent



  • 16 Jun 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    Organizational complexity is as present as ever. Business leaders have been slapped into realization of complexity yet again during Pandemic Time. The deep throws of 2020 have heightened awareness that complexity extends beyond the organization, its people and product mix, to how the quickly the realities of economic, societal and political forces can explode the best-laid plans. 

    Expertise in managing complexity with a business leader in moments like these does not come from knowing stuff and writing prescriptions. It comes from a capacity to plunge into not knowing alongside those who also do not know and yet bear responsibility for any outcomes. The ability to form a process and learn beside leaders as they make adaptive moves is the true and needed skill.

    In the September 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review Gőkçe Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath wrote a masterful article called Learning to live with complexity (pp. 69-76). Here are the distilled key points:

    • Numerous, independent parts that endlessly interact with one another make for a complexity beyond any one person’s knowledge, expertise or capacity to predict.
    • Few leaders or constituents acknowledge these limits, convinced that simple and accustomed patterns are what should work.
    • Inside complexity, the rarely occurring and unexpected event can outweigh the significance of the intended and regular result.

    Direction Sign

    No organizational type is an exception. Leaders everywhere are in the deep end of a murky pool. What to do? The authors suggest a greater effort to forecast, to mitigate risks and to make sure the bandwidth of leadership perspective increases. This is where a process consultant can be helpful. Here is one example of each:

    • Forecast: Manage according to expected income with best, likely and worst-case scenarios (conservative estimates please).  This approach is widely known and seldom practiced with real rather than manipulated or out-of-date data.  How this gets done is specific to the context of any one organization. It cannot just be copied and pasted from another elsewhere. It has to be figured out before it can be used.
    • Mitigate Risks:  Establish a cash reserve with an expected percentage of savings. This populates the balance sheet. Strong balance sheets are what see organizations through unexpected complexity. The intended direction of a balance sheet should be considered a best practice for strategic and planning conversations. The question, “how will this affect our balance sheet” is not only a critical one. The one who asks it, persistently, brings wisdom to the board room.
    • Increase Bandwidth: Float ideas and seek perspective informally before launching initiatives. These conversations inform what the initiative becomes. In the rush to launch and show how competent they are, business leaders often hear helpful perspective after the initiative is launched. However, by then is it criticism rather than a helpful suggestion. The humility to ask ahead of time makes the difference. Process consultants can help set the timing and safety of these conversations.

    We can be stopped and stalled by complexity or we can learn to embrace it. The process consultant is more helpful if they assume complexity and the need to joyfully learn alongside a client.  If the consultant shifts away from process orientation toward a product orientation – moving from being a non-anxious presence to someone anxiously needing to make a sale – they miss the point. The client is better served if the consultant spends more time trying to adapt their previous knowledge base to a new and more complex reality.

    -mark l vincent

    Dr. Mark L. Vincent is the founder of the Society for Process Consulting and former CEO of Design Group International. Mark is also the instructor of the foundational Process Consultant Training 101, which starts a new cohort 10 July 2020.


  • 27 May 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    Timing is everything. Many believe these are “the worst of times.” Yet these are “the best of times” to exercise resiliency to make your process consulting practice sustainable. 

    I am reminiscing for the THEN, BC - Before Contagion.  I had consulting dates on the calendar and clients promptly returning phone calls and emails. Back THEN, clients engaged in meaningful conversations as I helped them gain a clear vision of their future and the steps needed to get there. THEN, I was not hesitant about staying in a hotel or flying to their destination. THEN is past, we are in the NOW. And I move on. 

    NOW is the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic. In the NOW I have financial stress. Do I continue to support the charities which are in desperate need or do I use those limited resources to pay bills? I just cancelled my $1M business liability insurance. I discontinued my virtual office space and put money into upgrading my website to increase online presence and to be more culturally in tune with my potential clients.

    In the NOW I have emotional stress. I suffer from grief for my loss of control over my day-to-day life.  In the NOW I have cultural stress. What do I do if the client insists on meeting face to face, in a closed room with 8 people at a 10-person table who are not wearing masks? My cultural position is to obey all of the health and safety recommendations of the scientific community which means I am NOW culturally incongruent with my clients. How do I honor my values and beliefs as I attempt to follow the federal, state and local virus protection regulations? I continue to build resiliency skills to strengthen my cultural capacity to emerge from NOW into NEXT. 

    I have moved on to NEXT:  the time of AD - Active Doing™. NEXT is the state of Active Doing to exercise strength training by building capacity for resiliency. Resiliency is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Being more resilient means I am better able to navigate life’s challenges from a place of strength and conviction.

    Amit Sood, MD, Mayo Clinic, offers an additional explanation, “resiliency is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.”  These are the “best of times” to practice Active Doing by building resiliency to make my process consulting practice sustainable. There are nine attributes of resiliency skill building. I am hopeful that you are practicing some of these in the NOW. They include:

    • Connection - reaching out with a "good news" email;
    • Gratitude - being thankful for what you have;
    • Kindness - doing something nice for somebody;
    • Optimism - being certain that this uncertainty will end even if the NOW looks bleak;
    • Composure - staying calm, breath in-breath out, in the midst of confusion and frustration;
    • Patience - longsuffering with people and/or situations that confound you;
    • Sense of purpose - focus on the reasons you started this process consulting practice in the beginning—to help people;
    • Forgiveness - both for others and for yourself; and
    • Acceptance - for those things you cannot change.


    resiliency image

    How can you incorporate these resiliency attributes into your daily practice? What would that look, sound and feel like? What’s your investment worth? 

    Journey with me and fellow consultants to NEXT where we are  Actively Doing resiliency skill building in a 9-week course:  Building Cultural Congruence through Resiliency.  The value is in the capstone project. You will address/resolve a personal or professional NOW culturally INcongruent issue that would build your capacity for resiliency in preparation for the NEXT. The subsequent Plan of Action, using those resiliency skills, has the potential to benefit you, your family and your business or ministry.  

    The course starts in mid-July 2020 (dates TBD) and fulfills the requirement for credential renewal for Certified Process Consultants. 

    Contact me at [email protected] to discuss how this course might help you build your resiliency, cultural congruency and consulting capacity.

    - Sandra Quick


    Sandra Quick is the Principal Consultant at Joy Unspeakable, LLC, a founding member of the Society for Process Consulting and a member of its Standards and Ethics Committee.


  • 22 Apr 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    Edgar Schein is a retired professor from MIT and national legend in the field of process consulting. He first codified and described this iterative, adaptive form of consulting in 1969 as author of Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development. Yes, that is more than 50 years ago.  

    One of our members, Lon Swartzentruber, Executive Process Consultant, and CEO of Design Group International, approached "Ed" with a sense of curiosity: "I wonder what would happen if I reached out to him? Would he respond? What would we talk about?" So, Lon tracked down the address, wrote a letter and mailed it off not knowing what to expect. 

    Remarkably, Ed responded quickly and scheduled a call to find out who this curious person was and why he was so passionate about process consulting.  

    I recently interviewed Lon about this incredible experience, his key takeaways, and reminders of why, what and how we do consulting. Lon shared these nuggets of wisdom:

    • The value of lifelong learning. Even in his 90's Ed Schein wants to keep learning and during his conversations would often pose powerful questions back to Lon. He's curious, too, about the adoption of process consulting by people across the country.
    • The importance of not being "seduced" into using your own technical expertise – instead follow the principles of process consulting, including humble inquiry, accessing your ignorance, and honoring the client's wisdom.
    • Know the fundamentals. Lon shared an analogy about Pete Rose and the Philadelphia Phillies - listen to the interview for this creative comparison to being a great consultant. 
    • Don’t rob the client of power in the process. They own the problem and solution and if you take that away you are not really helping.

    Download the interview and see what lessons you gain to help your process consulting practice. Special thanks to Lon for this contribution.

    - Kim Stezala



  • 1 Apr 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    As all of us continue to cope with the realities of social distancing and the closure of major institutions due to the  COVID-19 crisis, there is hope through the recently passed CARES Act.  

    Through this act, the federal government has included financial assistance to small businesses, sole proprietors, self-employed individuals and independent contractors, specifically in a provision called the “Paycheck Protection Program” which is essentially a small business loan and loan forgiveness program.

    Many Society members and the clients we serve may qualify under the guidelines, however, financial institutions are still learning more about how this program will be implemented. For instance, the guidance is not clear on how people who don’t receive a traditional paycheck would provide salary and wage verification in the loan application or proof of payments to oneself during the loan repayment period.  The rules are clearer for “gig” workers who receive a 1099 from one entity (from Uber or Lyft, for instance) and could apply for unemployment the same as a W-2 worker would.

    Important dates to consider:

    April 3 – applications open for small businesses (including non-profit organizations) and sole proprietors

    April 10 – applications open for independent contractors and self-employed individuals.

    We wanted to share this basic information below with direct links. While the Society cannot offer financial or legal advice, we can share these resources with you.

    Information about who qualifies for what:
    https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/guide-to-the-cares-act

    Information on loan terms and a sample application.
    https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program-ppp

    We wish everyone good health and best wishes for continued success.

    - Kim Stezala



  • 26 Mar 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller (Administrator)

    Extra time on your hands due to the Covid-19 crisis? Unsure of your future employment or consulting situation? 

    Try our special Fast-Track Process Consulting 101 course. The condensed course is only $1,500 (normally $2,200), with the same content as our regular PCT101 AND you earn Certified Process Consultant status. It’s all online with personal guides/mentors to help propel you forward.  You will learn:
    • How process consulting is different
    • How to build your consulting pipeline and ecosystem
    • The art of creating client agreements
    • The elements of a strong business plan

    Register now - starts APRIL 1 or APRIL 3 – your choice!

    - Kim Stezala



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