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Not everyone can pronounce my surname. I suppose it has too many consonants for some. For them, the sch comes out as ess and the ltz sounds like an unadorned s. Schmaltz becomes ... smalls. It’s okay with me. It reminds me to focus upon the small rather than the huge.

“Let me paint you a broad brush overview, Mr. Smalls.” Every client tries to first show me a big picture of their difficulty, but I’m listening for small things.

BriefConsulting doesn’t scale, but it doesn’t need to scale. How would The BriefConsultant influence an enterprise-wide initiative? Certainly not by focusing upon the enterprise, whatever that is. Size serves as a distraction, a distancing abstraction when scaled beyond small.

I imagine the world as holographic, each infinitesimal mimicking every global. Global’s hard to observe if only for the lack of suitable vantage points. Small’s hard to observe, too, since even I’ve been entrained to focus upon horizons and broad vistas, but when I can focus on the smalls, I find no lack of available observation points. I’m learning that it might not matter what I observe as long as I keep my eyes on small things. I scan the client’s bookcase while he’s explaining his big picture. I will notice how he uses pronouns. I will focus upon the rhythm of his story, perhaps, more than the content.

I sometimes close my eyes while I listen. I’m learning that closing down one sense can enhance the perceptiveness of the others. I’m sometimes accused of sleeping on the job, though I’m not dreaming but hyper aware while apparently dozing there.

What am I seeking? I might know only after I’ve seen whatever it turns out to be. I’m looking for clues, but clues do not come with identification badges dangling around their necks. They seem unobvious, and might be best recognized after considerable time spent not recognizing them. They usually flash into identifiable form after first hanging around invisible for a considerable while. Sometimes a very long while.

I finally notice, for instance, that my client seems to prefer the curious use of the pronoun ‘we,’ when he might be explaining something only an ‘I’ would ordinarily describe. “We” this and “we” that, I wonder where he might be in there. Since he’s not the ‘we-are-not-amused’ queen and there’s only just the two of us here, I might ask where he went in his story.

”Huh?” A small discontinuity appears there in his otherwise well-practiced soliloquy.

”Could you tell your story as if it were yours rather than us’s?” I ask. A small inquiry. “I hate to come across like the damned pronoun police, but I’m struggling to understand where you fit into the broad scheme of things.” It’s a silly little request that might make some considerable difference.

If things are the way they are because they are that way, which is, of course, no causal explanation at all, then rather than scour the enterprise looking for causes, we might consider adopting one very small change, if only to see what might happen. The client, now telling his own small story rather than recounting a disembodied ‘we’ epic, might discover himself in there where he had so recently been sacrificing himself—his story—under the presumption that it would produce some greater good. We try on some small potential goodness instead.

This seems such a cheap trick, one certainly not scaled or scalable. Imagine everyone’s surprise when some insight emerges from such a silly little game. The enterprise might not notice. The freakin’ enterprise might not care, as if enterprises could notice or ever care about anything. No, these presumed enterprises offer little in the way of useful leverage, being comprised only of individuals’ notions about them, but individuals usually have more leverage than they presume. Heck, I don’t know much, but even I can make small distinctions like the one between collective notions and the disarmingly small perceptions of one imagining man who imagines he’s not imagining at all.

The client’s small-scaled “I” story exhibits some gristle, some sinew, and some unanticipated backbone. The enterprise-wide difficulty steps toward the back of the stage, out of the blinding footlights, and something different unfolds on stage. No extravaganza, but a monologue, the smallest, simplest, most personal sort of theater. The most personal turns out to be the most universal. The smallest possible intervention seems to make the biggest impact.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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