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In praise of NOT being the expert

Monday, November 15, 2021 5:04 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

I am Jordan Roman, Society member and consultant with P3 Development Group in Milwaukee. I did not come into consulting thinking I was a consultant, and truth be told I am only just starting my journey in process consulting. I am very definitely still a “beginner.” I would argue that, for the process consultant’s intents and purposes, that’s the best way to be.

I just wrapped up my participation in a Process Consulting Training course through the Society, and only recently joined P3 Consulting Group as a consultant after many years in management and operations. Stepping out of that fast-paced, solutions-focused world into the slow and thoughtful realm of process consulting has been quite the turnaround. On the one hand, so many of the precepts of process consulting – of open-minded listening, of asking good questions, of developing a peer relationship and collaboratively problem-solving with the client – are plain old common sense. On the other hand, work environments can force us to put that common sense on hold in favor of quick, surface-level solutions, and actually putting the core process consulting precepts into practice takes so much intentionality, strategy, and thoughtfulness. 

In my previous operations roles I was often expected to manage team members’ problems by handing out quick, canned solutions. I was the expert and the problem-solver, and often addressed issues in “big picture” mode, taking in only the basic details before making a decision. Stepping into a process consultant role has really allowed me to slow down my thinking and encounter new situations with an open mind. And my mind is made all the more open by the fact that I am NOT the expert, that so much of this IS new to me – it hardly feels possible to avoid listening deeply, working collaboratively and thinking holistically when it is so plain to me that the client truly is the expert who holds their own solutions somewhere, and I am just along for the process of teasing it out through good questions and an open-minded, “outsider” perspective. 

As process consultants, we step into our work with every client as “beginners,” as learners bringing no assumptions to the table. We join the true experts – our clients – in getting into the weeds, nuances and complexities of a situation. They bring the background knowledge; we bring open minds and a briefcase full of good questions. We serve our purpose best when we are NOT the experts.

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