Process Consulting is a consultation model based on building a mutual “helping relationship”. The role of the OD Process Consultant is to work ‘with’ the client and not ‘for’ the client. This is the fundamental philosophy of Process Consulting.
The Process Consultation model believes that creating a relationship with the client is paramount to helping the client to perceive, understand, and act on the process events that occur in the client’s internal and external environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client. Process consultation means that the helper focuses from the very beginning on the communication process and building the relationship.
Edgar Schein believed that Process Consultation is based on the assumption that problems will be solved more effectively and stay solved longer if the organization learns to solve the problems itself. By building a helping relationship with the client, Process Consulting focuses on a helping relationship, not an expert or doctor role.
To effectively help, the OD Process Consultant must have a deep understanding of their own mindset, which would include personal preconceptions, biases, and judgments.
The best helping relationship empowers the client to develop strategies to solve their own problem, to diagnose the root cause of the problem and develop a conclusion on how best to implement the solution.
Schein believed that no one could understand the organization better than the client. The most important role of the Process Consultant is to work with the client using the Action Research Model based on a systems approach to change. Remembering each phase of the change whether it be contracting, data gathering, diagnosing, interviewing, testing, assessment, or surveying, is an intervention.
Process Consulting recognizes three main principles.
- The client always knows more about their own situation than the consultant will.
- The process requires psychological ownership of the activities on the part of the client.
- The consultant should seek to develop the client’s capabilities to solve their own problems.
The focus is on improving the human interaction processes, including face-to-face relationships, communication, group and intergroup processes, and broader organizational issues such as values, culture and norms. The goal is to establish an effective helping relationship.
Here are Edgar Schein’s Ten Principles for Process Consultation
- Always try to be helpful.
- Always stay in touch with the current reality.
- Access your ignorance.
- Everything you do is an intervention.
- It is the client who owns the problem and the solution.
- Go with the flow.
- Timing is crucial.
- Be constructively opportunistic with confrontative interventions.
- Everything is a source of data; errors are inevitable-learn from them.
- When in doubt, share the problem.
If you are interested in learning more, IOD Offers an OD Process Consulting Certification Program to help you develop your OD Process Consulting Skills. You can learn more about the program here.
About the Author
Dr. Nancy Zentis is the founder and CEO of Institute of Organization Development. She founded IOD more than 23 years ago to help provide a certification process for those in the field of Organization Development. She can be contacted at Nancy.Zentis@instituteod.com. Website: https://instituteod.com