November 05, 2017
Beyond Sage on the Stage Consulting

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To borrow a phrase from the radically changing world of healthcare -- the essence of organizational culture change can be boiled down to three words: "Physician heal thyself"-- as in companies restoring optimum health to their enterprise from the inside out.

While many patients, anxious about their well-being, simply want the doctor to tell them what to do, that is, ultimately, a prescription for failure. Sustainable change only happens when people take full responsibility for their own condition.

Being told to "take two aspirins and see me in the morning" by someone with a framed medical school degree above their desk may be comforting in the short-term, but it completely misses the point. It's a paradigm whose time has come and gone.

The long and disappointing history of "change initiatives" bears this out. The data is there. 70% of them fail. And the main reason why 70% of them fail is because most organizations who enter into the culture change process rely too much on outside "experts" who, invariably treat their "patients" as someone incapable or unwilling to heal themselves.

Does the phrase "co-dependence" ring a bell?

If you expect your organization to make the kind of changes required for it to succeed, long-term, know this: the outside consultant as prescriber model (referred to in the OD world as "sage on the stage") has got to go. It will not work.

We understand, of course, that your company's Senior Leaders need some kind of roadmap or blueprint to help them navigate their way forward. They are not about to embrace an "organic process" that does not frame out the strategies and tactics required to help their company become an agile, innovative, best-company-to-work for enterprise.

This we understand. And, we will be happy to provide you with a blueprint.

But please understand this: embedded into the DNA of our blueprint is the highly collaborative process of co-creating the blueprint with you, your Design Team, and selected Senior Leaders.

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We are not prescribing two aspirins. We are not asking you to call us in the morning so we can prescribe two more aspirins or a tourniquet. We are engaging you in a dynamic, interactive, collaborative partnership to ensure that the effort made is genuine, robust, and sustainable.

And that only happens when a critical mass of people in your organization are deeply engaged in the change process from the very beginning. No aspirins required.

This is the primary difference between our approach and traditional "sage on the stage" consulting.

And while we're at it, here's another way to think about your the choices before you -- vacations.

Some people like to go on Safaris. Some people like to go to 5-Star hotels.

On Safari, everything is not always neat and clean. Conditions change. Weather shifts. The road is often bumpy. There are unknowns and surprises that require flexibility, adaptability, and in-the-moment decision making.

In a 5-Star hotel, everything is buttoned down, pre-programmed, and effortless. Indeed, that is what 5-Star Hotel customers are paying for -- for someone else to do the work, someone else to cook the food, someone else to make the bed. We get it.

But a large scale, organizational change effort is not a 5-Star Hotel

It is more like a Safari. And while there are definitely best practices to abide by and time-tested principles to be guided by, success cannot be prescribed by a third party -- especially if you are committed to internalizing the mindset, skills, tools, and processes, needed for you organization to make this their own, replicable process in the years to come.

Make sense?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at November 5, 2017 12:44 PM

Comments

Mitch.

Great read.


I am sending your golden words above with the following to one of greatest professors of change in Saudi Arabia.


"Doc. I understand that you want to be a sage on the stage.

You want to be a great expert as a change management consultant who makes fantastic recommendations to clients that are helpful. You are asking me to find the best canned diagnostic instrument.

As I told you there is no best universal diagnostic instrument.

Allow me to share my belief.

Instead you must guide your client system to create its own diagnostic model and then lead the diagnosis as you help the system create their blueprint for change.

Together with the whole system you will create the recommendations. I will guarantee they will be accepted and that they will be effective.

I do not believe that sages on stages or expert consultants are effective in today's world. Yes there is a place for them, in the emergency room or in a company about to go under.

Support for my conviction.

Rothwell and I dedicated our classic Practicing Organization Development text books to Dr. Schein.

He is the first to publish that expert recommendations do not work. Now that was almost 40 years ago. The world of change is just starting to discover what some of the founders of the change managment field have been saying forever.

Indeed the sage on the stage has been replaced in successful organization consults by the guide on the side or the agent of change who is understanding, knowledgeable and capable of facilitating system effectiveness.

Expert recommendations are just resisted and was Mitch says co-dependence exudes.

Posted by: Roland the Change Agent [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2014 02:17 PM

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