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The Seduction of Expertise and Other Consulting Lessons

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 8:00 AM | Jennifer Miller

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

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