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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Consultants Dilemma: Discovering Differences that Deliver Value

The turbulence in the global marketplace has acquired a life of its own that has impacted even our most reliable institutions. Many organizations are struggling to meet the needs of the people they are designed to serve and keep themselves solvent in the process. Unforeseen events can induce a sense of impasse for the leadership that is experienced within the organization as a threat to its identity and a challenge to its governance structures (Boxer and Eigen, 2008). This unstable environment may present opportunities for consultants who are psychoanalytically informed and systemically alert. It is a ripe situation in which to use a relational business model that is designed to explore differences at many levels simultaneously. Discrepancies emerge between the public's expectations of the organization and what is actually being delivered to the public. Differences are expected to emerge between the problem the consultant is asked to address and what is driving the underlying dilemmas that are being ignored. (Haley, 1973; Hampden-Turner, 1990). Simultaneously, organizational consultants face an ethical dilemma to meet the challenge of each particular case as they meet resistance to their interventions (Boxer and Palmer, 1994). This requires a willingness among consultants to re-conceptualize methods for delivering value to leadership teams so that the differences that they discover can be contained and utilized as drivers for change. A transformational model that helps to develop a practical strategy for intervention must consider the interaction between: (1) the team within the enterprise (what actually happens inside it); (2) the new forms of demands that are ever changing and expanding (what clients actually want, rather than what is currently offered); and (3) the individual with a role inside the enterprise that interfaces with this demand (what a person in an edge role is able to say about what he does for the client/customer). At the same time, the consultant needs to include the impact of his/her particular way to give meaning to these interactions. A reflexive methodology that attempts to consider the transformational process from these vantage points is needed to address this level of complexity. (Hawkins, 1998; Boxer and Eigen, 2005). Organizational consultants who work reflexively need to be responsive to the goals of the client/organization, the particular forms of customer demands that are imposing on the organization's business model, and the very way the consultant has of defining his/her way to be in business. Managing the complexity of this intertwined and yet divergent focus produces a sense of impasse that is resisted by the team within the organization and can be identified by the consultant through the experience of his/her own resistance. The reflexive consultation process travels as far as possible in stimulating change and then inevitably reaches an impasse. This occurs at the point of realization that the current way the leadership team has to structure solutions no longer works. This is the point at which the organization is not effectively meeting the demands of its clients while maintaining sufficient competitive advantage. The paper explores the nature of the team's refusal to address the impasse and the fit between the consultants personal way of thinking that inhibits his/her ability to impact this problem. The consultant must be willing to meets his own refusal to address the impasses within his/her personal systemic engagements and utilize this recognition to reframe the nature of the dilemma in order to make it available for more work. Case examples of consultancy projects that were supported by a reflexive team process provide an overview of the way the methodology is experienced in practice.'