Bare-assed Consulting

Bare-assed Consulting 1.4: The Mess

Messy might just be the natural order of everything, though I strongly prefer my universes tidy. This difference between apparent natural disorder and strong preference for unnatural orderliness creates opportunities for this bare-assed consultant. Most of my clients call for help when they’re struggling to avoid or tame some mess, and they always hold some powerful notions about what constitutes mess and what might distinguish messiah. One man’s mess might be another’s masterpiece.

The bare-assed consultant only rarely resorts to sorting through—physically re-ordering—any mess. He first sits with it instead, under the belief that until he’s sat with the chaos, he’s unlikely to understand its nature well enough to avoid making that mess even messier. I make a crucial distinction, though, between sitting with the mess and plopping myself down in the middle of it. Slip over here for more ...


Bare-assed Consulting 1.1: The Normals

We live in exceptional times, just like our forebears did. Living seems to encourage a deep sense of exceptionalism; understandable, I suppose, since alive seems so mysterious and unpredictable. In this space we presently inhabit, exceptional qualifies as normal.

Maybe it just comes with the territory, but we seem awfully interested in fitting in, in following the trends, in adopting the most up-to-date. Perhaps we don’t want to be left behind. The ensemble’s performance, though, masks remarkable variety. Nobody lives like the population average, yet that average might be the most reliable reference to what’s normal and what’s not. The result can be an awful (with particular emphasis on ‘awful’) lot of theatrics: going along to get along, fitting in, passing as, mimicking, and the thousand other artifices, small and large, which seem to separate us from our preferences, from our selves. All perfectly normal.

If individuals are easy prey for such quagmires, organizations seem to encourage second-order versions, where individual adaptations tangle together, producing genuinely Gordian results. The popular term ‘dysfunctional’ might aptly describe every individual, every organization now, but I prefer the more normalizing term ‘differently functioning.’ Slip over here for more ...


Bare-assed Consulting 1.0: Sick's Sigma

Even bare-assed consulting turns dicey when a client sets his mind on some process improvement scheme. It never really matters what the scheme might be, you can be certain only that it’ll fairly quickly produce the opposite of the attracting intention. Whether by initial interpretation or the influence of organizational antibodies, that true north veers due south. ’Twas always thus.

And the timing of the consultant’s arrival won’t much influence the outcome. The tariff, as Peter Block once noted, on imported method inevitably exceeds the expected return.

These initiatives always start as bright ideas,”I know, we’ll just put on a show!”-quality fantasies, laden with invisible externalities. Whether a Senior VP read some article in an airline magazine or transferred in from a company that had fully integrated some scheme, the mandate comes from the top down. The suits arrive shortly after the announcement, mustering a committee of ... cough ... cough ... volunteers ... chartered to change the company’s culture from the bottom up.

Therein lies the disabling paradox Slip over here for more ...