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Organizations in Today's Competitive, Global Business Environment

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4 OD PRACTITIONER | VOL. 38 | NO. 1 | 2006

ORGANIZATIONS IN TODAY'S competitive, global business

environment are required to be optimally responsive to

continuous change, or die trying. The results of this

challenge have not been encouraging. Many organizations that

were listed among the Fortune 500 in the 1980s and 1990s are

no longer in business because of their failures to adapt to the

changing marketplace (Beer & Nohria, 2000). The rate of failure

of many organizational change initiatives such as Total Quality

Management, Business Process Re-engineering, leveraged

buy-outs and other acquisitions, and large IT initiatives suggests

that even when the will exists, those in power in organizations

lack the knowledge required to manage change effectively.

In an attempt to increase the experience of success, and

avoid extinction, business enterprises today have grabbed at the

many tools and techniques that have been willingly offered by

consultants. Each has promised that their pet process will be the

path to the Holy Grail. However, my twenty-five years of consulting

experience and constant reading of the prodigious

change management literature have revealed something else.

These pet processes inevitably fail to establish a systemic perspective

on change that balances the contributions of the social

and economic systems.

As is the case in any system, when imbalance is introduced,

self-correction results. To date, the self-correction has

included failures in the attempts to introduce change because, I

maintain, a critical component, i.e., the social system, has been

considered only as an afterthought. John Kotter said it best

when he stated,

Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people's

feelings...In highly successful change efforts, people find

ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways

that influence emotions, not just thought. (Kotter, quoted

by Deutschman, 2005, pg. 55)

This paper contends that change processes based on an

empowerment approach generate improvements in both financial

performance and in people. I also suggest that process consultation

should form the foundation of the multiple associations

that exist within organizations and that it underlie the client-consultant

relationship. I make this contention because the value

set and practices inherent in process consultation seem to be

consistent with and supportive of empowerment.

Empowerment as a

Way to Facilitate


Can Process Consultation Help?

By Henry A. Hornstein

"Empowerment as an organizational strategy for achieving improved financial performance has met with

resistance from many managers, despite their claims of support... Resistance is quite persistent."


I felt compelled to write this as a consequence of primarily

two career "events." First, in my organization consulting experience

in many organizations across a variety of industry sectors,

I noticed that most of the engagements undertaken by my management

consultant colleagues were premised on setting up a

dependent relationship with the client. That is, the consultant

was the approving or disapproving "parent," and the client was

the incapable "child" who could not be trusted to competently

look after his/her own organization.

Moreover, as a novice organization consultant, I was taught

and coached to adopt consulting styles that have been labeled

by Peter Block (1999) and Ed Schein

(1999) as "expert" and as "pair of

hands," and to adopt a very mechanistic,

hierarchical style of leadership.

An engagement was successful or

not largely based on how well the consultant

performed; the client was considered

to be only a small part of the

equation. My training encouraged me

to cultivate dependent relationships

with my clients. These dependent relationships

almost guaranteed that the

client would be minimally better off after

my work with them was completed. I

now believe that this is a fundamentally

flawed way to construct my relationship

with clients.




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