Marriott Alumni Magazine

Spring Summer 1977 Exchange

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were frustrated, angry, and upset with each other. The consultant recommended a team building program and worked (without noticeable improvement in production) for a period of months. Then one day a visiting engineer who was going through the plant listened to the equipment and observed that something didn't sound right and asked if the main drive shaft were in line. A quick check indicated that, indeed, the main shaft that powered the production unit was not functioning correctly. When this was replaced, production immediately improved, and people were much happier and satisfied-and every-one wondered why this outside fellow had been doing all this team building when what they really needed was a new drive shaft. Know Your "Hammer" A good consultant is aware that there are probably facets of any problem that are beyond his scope, and he points out the areas where he may not be able to even ask questions. The client is always hiring a fallible resource and should not expect the consultant to do everything, and the consultant should not promise the moon. Gene Dalton, of the BYU Organizational Behavior department, talks about the "Law of the Hammer." The Law is: if you give a little boy a hammer, he will find something to pound. So it is with some consultants. If they have one "hammer" -be it management by objectives, motivation, job enrichment, team building, or anything else-thy will pound with that hammer. If you know what hammer you need, you hire the right one. But if you are not sure what hammer is best, hire a consultant with an assortment of hammers, or one who will not hammer at all but will help you discover what hammer is really needed. Clients should know something of the dilemmas that face consultants. A consultant wants to do a good job, to be helpful, and to "earn his pay." Yet if the client is not careful, he may unknowingly contribute to an unhealthy condition. The client may expect the consultant to come in and "do his thing"-to demonstrate his competency. In turn, the consultant wants to show his worth, so he moves in and runs the show while the client sits by the side and watches. The result can be that, if the consultant is not successful, the client assumes no blame, for it is the consultant's fault. But if the consultant is successful, the client can feel envious, sometimes secretly resentful, that an outsider could handle the problem that he could not. In addition the client sometimes feels more inadequate because he thinks he can never do things as well as the consultant, and he often becomes terribly dependent on the expert to continue to handle difficult situations. Time and Money Consultants need time to understand the nature of the client's organization. They need to talk to people, observe, listen, take notes, read reports. This is different than moving in and showing your brilliance; it also takes time and costs money. The client should expect and allow this period for the consultant's immersion into the organizational waters. Recall that the consultant helps in areas of uncertainty. When data are surfaced that indicate a certain type of problem-or a possible solution-the consultant must confront the client with that data or solution. Sometimes the data are uncomfortable or unexpected. But whatever the consultant's style (whether to approach gently or with bluntness), confrontation-in the sense of pin-pointing the real issues, the honest data, the tough alternatives-must come at some point in the client/consultant relationship. The Dependency Issue At times, faced with alternatives that are difficult, the client may legitimately depend on the consultant and sincerely ask, "What should I do? What actions should I take?" Consultants differ in the ways they respond to dependency-some accept it for a time and work through it, while others prefer to try to keep the client always out of a dependency condition. But all good consultants will face the dependency issue and try to resolve it for the benefit of the client. Ultimately all reputable consultants have as a goal not only to help the client solve the problem that prompted the hiring of an outside resource, but to help the client develop a capability to recognize and to cope with future similar problems without the help of a consultant. Continued dependency will not achieve these goals. A client should be aware of the dependency issue and should discuss the matter with the consultant. The very process of having the client ask about the dependency question usually moves toward reducing dependency. Consultants will, whether or not they recognize it and plan for it, be working with and affecting the client system at two levels-the problem level that prompted the retaining of the consultant and the human level (the relationships and individuals with whom the consultant works). The two levels are closely interconnected and an effect at one level will have some influence on the other. If a con-

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