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BriefConsulting 2.1: ehT metsyS

”How do you happen to be here?”
This open-ended question often starts one of this Brief Consultant’s engagements. Rather than starting with the end in mind or dwelling on The (infernal) Problem, I’m curious about the person in front of me. I want to hear their story.

Many notice that nobody ever asked them this question before, and most have been inching for someone to tell their tale to. Might as well be me.

Within the first five minutes, this client will say something that seems to jangle a chain of understanding, and not usually my chain. Theirs. Something significant shifts when the focus changes from hopefully peering forward into casually reflecting backward.

Nobody gets to understand forward. Forward gear seems tooled for progress, not reflection, though rear-view reflection’s always accessible. It might be wisest to pull over before studying any mirror too closely, but pulling over seems the least likely strategy to result in meaningful forward progress. “I know we really should stop and replan, but we just don’t have the schedule time to do that,” several clients have reminded me.

The System, metsyS ehT, looks really different backwards, sdrawkcab. Those sidelong consultant glances aren’t just a cheap tricks, but mindful attempts to glimpse what few within any forward-marching organization ever see. The Brief Consultant never understands at first, but steps down and back, looking for something that might well have been easily lost in the fuss and feathers forward progress seems to demand. Something as simple as “How do you happen to be here?”

No one can command understanding. It only comes the old fashioned way. The oldest fashioned way might well be open-ended conversation. Cross examination won’t cut to this chase. Survey tools can’t reveal these stories. The System, forward, might fool anyone into believing that there’s a solid, rational core supporting it. Speak to the people involved and the myth will reveal itself along with some surprising DNA.

No system ever out-grows its DNA. The family business that grew up retains some significant scripts from its founder, like I carry some stories my parents taught me when they didn’t know they were teaching me anything and before I knew I was learning anything. These stories I don’t even know I know tend to come out in open-ended conversation, then I might hear myself telling a curious consultant what I expected he might be there to tell me.

Sometimes stuckness comes from forgetting what The System was originally designed to do. Some reflective reminder can realign intention with possibility. Sometimes, stepping backward reveals the shortest path forward.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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