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Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster

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Consulting in Complex and Changing Times Organizations face challenges today that are too messy and complicated for consultants to simply play doctor: run a few tests, offer a neat diagnosis of the "problem," and recommend a solution. Edgar Schein argues that consultants have to jettison the old idea of professional distance and work with their clients in a more personal w Consulting in Complex and Changing Times Organizations face challenges today that are too messy and complicated for consultants to simply play doctor: run a few tests, offer a neat diagnosis of the "problem," and recommend a solution. Edgar Schein argues that consultants have to jettison the old idea of professional distance and work with their clients in a more personal way, emphasizing authentic openness, curiosity, and humility. Schein draws deeply on his own decades of experience, offering over two dozen case studies that illuminate each stage of this humble consulting process. Just as he did with Process Consultation nearly fifty years ago, Schein has once again revolutionized the field, enabling consultants to be more genuinely helpful and vastly more effective.


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Consulting in Complex and Changing Times Organizations face challenges today that are too messy and complicated for consultants to simply play doctor: run a few tests, offer a neat diagnosis of the "problem," and recommend a solution. Edgar Schein argues that consultants have to jettison the old idea of professional distance and work with their clients in a more personal w Consulting in Complex and Changing Times Organizations face challenges today that are too messy and complicated for consultants to simply play doctor: run a few tests, offer a neat diagnosis of the "problem," and recommend a solution. Edgar Schein argues that consultants have to jettison the old idea of professional distance and work with their clients in a more personal way, emphasizing authentic openness, curiosity, and humility. Schein draws deeply on his own decades of experience, offering over two dozen case studies that illuminate each stage of this humble consulting process. Just as he did with Process Consultation nearly fifty years ago, Schein has once again revolutionized the field, enabling consultants to be more genuinely helpful and vastly more effective.

30 review for Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rick te Molder

    The book has two parts. PART I An explanation of why this book is relevant: - the world is moving too fast and the consulting problems have become too complex to apply the traditional ‘doctor role’ of observing, diagnosing, finding a root cause and proposing a solution - problems should be solved instead by the client and the consultant together - therefore the relationship between client and consultant should be less distant and more personal than it used to be There are 5 types of relationships with The book has two parts. PART I An explanation of why this book is relevant: - the world is moving too fast and the consulting problems have become too complex to apply the traditional ‘doctor role’ of observing, diagnosing, finding a root cause and proposing a solution - problems should be solved instead by the client and the consultant together - therefore the relationship between client and consultant should be less distant and more personal than it used to be There are 5 types of relationships with regard to the level of personalization: Level -1 -> negative relationships, such as between a prisoner and a guard, or a slave and a slave holder Level 0 -> neutral relationships, such as between occasional passengers or in traffic Level 1 -> professional relationships of the “doctor-patient’ kind Level 2 -> personal professional relationships, such as between the ‘humble consultant’ and the client, where there is a high level of openness and trust Level 3 -> close family or romantic relationships So what we need is a level 2 relationship between consultant and client. This could have been explained in one or two pages, but the author goes on and on, using metaphor after metaphor. PART II Just when I was about to give up, the author starts to provide examples. It turns out he has a wealth of experience in consulting companies and organizations all over the world. He shares many examples of successful and less successful consulting assignments, wrapping up each example with lessons learned. I found this part very instructional, especially as I recently started a consulting practice after a long working life as a corporate employee. My humble advice: skip the first chapters and enjoy the examples.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wojtek

    Let me start that idea is brilliant, and that's something I strongly believe in. The first few chapters are describing very well all essential elements that are building the whole thing. Then we have a few chapters with examples and practice, and things start to be a little fuzzy. It's more about bragging (although some descriptions are precious and have hidden meaning). Anyway, I think that beginning of the book and the whole idea is important, especially if you are struggling, and you are looki Let me start that idea is brilliant, and that's something I strongly believe in. The first few chapters are describing very well all essential elements that are building the whole thing. Then we have a few chapters with examples and practice, and things start to be a little fuzzy. It's more about bragging (although some descriptions are precious and have hidden meaning). Anyway, I think that beginning of the book and the whole idea is important, especially if you are struggling, and you are looking for inspiration in how to do it in a better way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    This book was a confirmation of how I've been working for many years. If I hadn't been doing this for so long already, I might have given it five stars. It's clear, teaching big principles and specific examples on how to apply it. It's persuasive without being pushy. If you're a consultant (even an internal staff member whose job is to give advice) this is a good read. This book was a confirmation of how I've been working for many years. If I hadn't been doing this for so long already, I might have given it five stars. It's clear, teaching big principles and specific examples on how to apply it. It's persuasive without being pushy. If you're a consultant (even an internal staff member whose job is to give advice) this is a good read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Read along with Humble Leadership The word itself does appeal in the context - humble and leadership is an excellent oxymoron that would seem to imply something extraneous to the typical image of a leader as someone who control, leads and holds power. In the context of consulting it would seem more fitting if you take consultancy as part of the scale that heads towards counselling and coaching. The tone of the book backs up this impression. Schein is an enthusiastic writer, convinced by the effec Read along with Humble Leadership The word itself does appeal in the context - humble and leadership is an excellent oxymoron that would seem to imply something extraneous to the typical image of a leader as someone who control, leads and holds power. In the context of consulting it would seem more fitting if you take consultancy as part of the scale that heads towards counselling and coaching. The tone of the book backs up this impression. Schein is an enthusiastic writer, convinced by the effectiveness and humilty of his own project. A lot of it sounds self-explanatory; the way he wishes leaders and consultants to act is, in essence, linked to basic human decency, manners and influences by, as he urges, a need to be helpful through curiousity and engagement with people. Not a bad premise. Yet the fact he writes something like this makes it clear that plenty of people in these positions are far from humble. The style is, unfortunately, a little banal and lacking verve. It fits awkwardly between an academic style and dreary self-help. His favourite terms (Level Two relationships, for example) are repeated to death and, occasionally, sound like level-ups on a computer game. They are often simple terms but Schein over-simplifies the explanations. The details of exactly how such relationships can be forged and maintained is never really delved into deep enough. He tries to back-up his arguments through endless practical examples which often come across a little pompous, although he is, in the spirit of humilty, very self-critical. One can not fault him for practising what he preaches. In fact, practically, Humble Consulting could be very useful. The topic is a little strained, starting with "humble inquiry" and stretching it out to Humble Leadership. This second book is not as concise or effective as the first. The arguments are too well-trodden without actually explaning or revealing anything new. Schein's book are not bad, but they are not explosively good or innovative as well. As a refreshing take on roles that are not normally associated with modest behaviour, the shout out for humilty isn't, however, without certain merit and plenty of good intention. 4

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason Carter

    Schein terms his approach, "humble consulting," ie not jumping in with a toolset to start solving problems, but starting by developing a Level Two (empathetic) relationship and then using the art of diagnosis to really understand the client. Only then will you be able to help them in the way they *need* rather than merely in the way they ask. Schein terms his approach, "humble consulting," ie not jumping in with a toolset to start solving problems, but starting by developing a Level Two (empathetic) relationship and then using the art of diagnosis to really understand the client. Only then will you be able to help them in the way they *need* rather than merely in the way they ask.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katlu

    Schein basically describes his own development from academic expert to „humble“ process coach, emphasizing the importance of rapport and of letting the clients own both their problems and solutions. While the concept presented here is maybe not too new (humble consulting is very close to systemic coaching), his many case studies are really interesting to read. As in his earlier writings, I admire his sharp analysis even of big and embarassing traps he fell into - all for the sake of enabling his Schein basically describes his own development from academic expert to „humble“ process coach, emphasizing the importance of rapport and of letting the clients own both their problems and solutions. While the concept presented here is maybe not too new (humble consulting is very close to systemic coaching), his many case studies are really interesting to read. As in his earlier writings, I admire his sharp analysis even of big and embarassing traps he fell into - all for the sake of enabling his readers to learn from them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    Useful stuff. I like how Ed is so personable, introduces some useful concepts, and offers questions and insights for immediate and future application. I listened to the audibook and the narrator was terrific.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard Kalmeijer

    Useful beaucoup strongly connected and maybe ovelapping with Humble Inquiry from the samewriter. Could have ben shorter

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patrick S Kelso

    A lot of useful insights and practical activities that are easy to start with.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Interesting ideas poorly presented.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    I work in software sales, and while my company also has a consulting arm, the roles we have in sales often overlap with our consultants, especially in the early stage of finding a solution to a customer’s problem. I figured that “Humble Consulting” would provide help in that overlapping area, and it does – by providing a different mindset to use when initiating contact with a prospective customer. The main lesson I learned from “Humble Consulting” is to approach customers with curiosity instead I work in software sales, and while my company also has a consulting arm, the roles we have in sales often overlap with our consultants, especially in the early stage of finding a solution to a customer’s problem. I figured that “Humble Consulting” would provide help in that overlapping area, and it does – by providing a different mindset to use when initiating contact with a prospective customer. The main lesson I learned from “Humble Consulting” is to approach customers with curiosity instead of with a canned pitch intended to winnow down a customer’s needs to some pre-determined set of products. Another major difference between Schein’s new approach and previous approaches is that the consultant should intend to fix what he can when he can, and he should not wait until a big-bang final report to a customer. While this could lower revenues, Schein believes the goodwill makes it worthwhile in the long run. Let’s hope so, he gives some examples of providing some value to customers during the initial meeting that eliminated some lucrative work by providing those customers a different point of view for their pressing problems. If you enjoy backstage tell-all type business books, you get some inside stories here. Schein details some of the issues of the inner workings of DEC, especially Ken Olson personality issues. He also reports on a fellow consultant’s failed engagement with DEC based on forcing a traditional work product down their throats. The consultant, another Professor, is named and is described as being quite arrogant, through quotes and actions. Schein isn’t trying to make friends here. RANT – Digital Equipment Company is 9 syllables long. As I understand things, with the goal of shortening the writing and saying of those 9 syllables an acronym is used, DEC. On audio in this book, the narrator consistently reads out the acronym by letter – “dee ee see”. That’s 3 syllables. Since the goal is to shorten things, wouldn’t you read those acronyms as a word if you could? I’ve always pronounced the company as “deck”, which is one syllable, and I almost always hear it pronounced that way. DEC is mentioned so often in this book pronouncing it as one syllable would have shortened the audiobook by quite a few minutes. Can’t audiobook producers get together to generate and follow some rules that enable this kind of obvious time savings? END RANT Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think it will be useful, even if I only recall those few points above. Software sales is different enough from consulting sales that we can’t be in humble consulting mode all the time, but it makes sense, and I can see where the customers would likely be happier.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    Despite the occasional labored writing style, this is an wise (and indeed) book about asking good questions and stepping in in the minutest of ways to provide real help as a consultant -- an area I'm stepping into for work. I can't help but feel that there's a bit of Schein magic to all this that would be difficult to recreate. But, dammit, I'm going to try! Despite the occasional labored writing style, this is an wise (and indeed) book about asking good questions and stepping in in the minutest of ways to provide real help as a consultant -- an area I'm stepping into for work. I can't help but feel that there's a bit of Schein magic to all this that would be difficult to recreate. But, dammit, I'm going to try!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Second book I've read by Schein. He demonstrates how as consultants/coaches/leaders to not consult in the role of expert or doctor (providing expert info, services, diagnoses and prescriptions) but rather to be a partner/helper and enable the client to figure out what makes sense. This requires humility, and the 3 Cs - Commitment to helping, caring for the client and curiosity. Relationship with client needs to be based on trust and mutual expectations. This is a joint responsibility and needed Second book I've read by Schein. He demonstrates how as consultants/coaches/leaders to not consult in the role of expert or doctor (providing expert info, services, diagnoses and prescriptions) but rather to be a partner/helper and enable the client to figure out what makes sense. This requires humility, and the 3 Cs - Commitment to helping, caring for the client and curiosity. Relationship with client needs to be based on trust and mutual expectations. This is a joint responsibility and needed to have true caring for the client. Lots of case studies - good for anybody in a role to help either internally or externally to an organization.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Fred Leland

    Great book Humble Consulting the author has adapted his research from his other book Helping and Humble Inquiry and made adaptive moves to refine the work with real life examples and the lessons learned. This book is a great resource for helping to develop an organizational culture that thrives in an atmosphere of mutual trust and teamwork. The techniques are based on the spirit of inquiry and dialog that actual designs better ways of working cohesively. In short I love this book and Edgar Schein Great book Humble Consulting the author has adapted his research from his other book Helping and Humble Inquiry and made adaptive moves to refine the work with real life examples and the lessons learned. This book is a great resource for helping to develop an organizational culture that thrives in an atmosphere of mutual trust and teamwork. The techniques are based on the spirit of inquiry and dialog that actual designs better ways of working cohesively. In short I love this book and Edgar Schein's other books as well.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Clare Russell

  16. 4 out of 5

    Francis (Cong) Wang

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thad

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lily Blouin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elysia

  21. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Volle

  22. 4 out of 5

    BJ Thompson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Armando Ricalde

  24. 5 out of 5

    Darin Woolwine

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jamie MacLaren

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mike Field

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dieter

  29. 5 out of 5

    Esther Derby

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

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