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  • Wednesday, July 13, 2022 6:43 AM | Hallie Knox

    Mark L. Vincent is a founder, chairman, and course facilitator here at the Society for Process Consulting. He recently authored the book Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting, which contains a wide variety of case studies from some of our own members! Today's blog is the first of three in which Mark will hone in on the categories of the process consulting competencies: listening, helping, and learning.

    Dacia Coffey prefaces her recent book Corporate Caffeine with these words:

    Communication deterioration is a human condition (p. xiii)

    The remedy she suggests?

    Putting servant leadership at the heart of your communication (p. xix).

    Being a servant leader who communicates well begins with the listening side of communication. Or, as described in the book Nonviolent Communication, by receiving empathically. This is not listening for a hook by which to begin speaking. Neither is it passive, waiting until someone finishes speaking. Real and active listening grows from bringing love to a conversation, an unconditional positive regard for the people across from you.

    This work to serve communication by making your listening the center, rather than your message, puts you in partnership with others rather than competing with them for airtime. Especially in an organization, the conversation, this working session to understand, develop and share insight, requires safety -- enough safety to get past amygdala hijackings to consider the benefits of a change a working group will implement together. This safety is possible because someone is serving the conversation through listening. Once someone starts listening this way, it becomes far more feasible for others to join in that listening.

    As listening becomes something done jointly, the language of our communication shifts from statements to additional questions--from Let me tell you something, or I just wanna say to, Do I have this right? and Have I missed anything? and Is there anything else?

    With this shift, we begin actively and comprehensively listening together. Now we can become sensitive to conceptual insight and the context in which our problem or opportunity is showing up. We can begin listening for the architectural elements of a process we will engage in and then move into that process better able to recognize adaptive moves we will need to make. We can do all this because we lean in to listen rather than lasso the conversation away from someone else.

    Servant leadership brought to communication requires such intentionality that a person must do their personal work--listening to themselves--outside of conversations not to be personally distracted or derailed within them. Being honest about this, I admit that even in writing this blog post, I had to stop and get in touch with the irritations of the day -- an e-mail response to me I did not like, ironically, because I did not feel listened to, a personal concern where I might not like the answer when I ask an essential question of a friend, a deadline I need to meet yet today, as well as the next item on my agenda once I complete this. All these crowd in and start me rushing, writing sentences distractedly, being elsewhere than this moment I'm in. I breathe deeply and call my intention and attention back to capturing thoughts begins again. 

    Listening in this way, I'm not just listening to a person or a thing. I'm not just listening to my being or thoughts on a subject. And, I'm not just listening to the audience I hope will read this, trying to adjust my words to gain their interest. I am being present and growing my awareness of a moment in which we all might share. I'm not just pointing to or describing the subject of listening with words. I am in its presence, taking it in--hopefully in such a way that you and others join me--and our understanding grows together.

    We can't do this type of listening when we are talking.

    We can't do this type of listening when we look like we are listening but only are waiting our turn to speak.

    We can't do this type of listening if we are thinking about listening.

    We can begin listening in this way in our intention to serve good communication by bringing our whole and highest self to the problems and opportunities we join with others.

    Listening--the kind of listening that ripples out to others, until a whole team is engaged in thoughtful collaboration--is an art form. We need more of these artists at the helm.

  • Thursday, June 02, 2022 2:54 PM | Hallie Knox

    Three of our members – Renoulte Allen, Trudi Perkins, and Kelly VanBrouwer – participated in our Process Consulting Training 101 together this past winter, and we had the honor of interviewing each of them for this blog. Read on to learn about their experiences with Process Consulting and our PCT 101 course.  

    Thanks so much for sharing your words and time with the Process Consulting community! Let’s start with your background and how you found your way into Process Consulting and the PCT 101 course.

    Trudi: I was a K-12 English Language Arts teacher for 16 years and got caught in that COVID limbo – I was in the process of returning to work from medical leave, just subbing here and there while also defending my dissertation. Once that was done, there I was with my EdD, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it! I started thinking about how much I enjoyed doing adult consulting, and how I wanted to expand my dissertation work on racism awareness development beyond a teacher education focus and into the world of corporate America. Around that time I was introduced to Deanna Rolffs, and that’s how I found my way to the Society for Process Consulting and Design Group International.  

    Kelly: I’ve spent my entire professional career caring for people and places. Ten of those years were in the health care setting working as a Chaplain and in Administrative Pastoral Leadership, and the remaining years were in non-profits and religious organizations. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been invited to help both individuals and organizations better understand their unique journeys and next steps. I was introduced to Design Group International just a year or so into re-building a prominent non-profit that had fallen under very poor leadership, and I felt very rooted and called to that work at the time. My friend Deanna Rolffs and I talked a few times over those years about how the consulting community of Design Group International might be a good place for me at some point, so I took that step when it made sense. 

    Renoulte: I’m currently employed as an higher education administrator. However, my start as a consultant began a couple of years ago when I was invited to partner with two other individuals to assist a college in improving their retention efforts. As a result of that experience, I discovered that my unique perspective on student retention opened the door of opportunity for me in consulting. One of the challenges that I face is balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and my client work. Finding the community of Design Group International and the Society for Process Consulting has helped me to be more successful in balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and entrepreneur.

    How do you feel your professional background and life experience relate to the practices of Process Consulting? 

    Trudi: The school I taught at was a critical design and gaming school, so all the courses were taught with that focus and theory. Rather than being a “sage on stage,” we really let our students’ ideas guide the learning. That’s why Process Consulting spoke so much to me. The learner – whether a student or a client – is the one with the ideas, and it’s my role as the educator or facilitator to walk alongside and help them find their answers, using my insights and knowledge to guide that path. Process Consulting also connects to speculative methods, which is about moving forward with a focus on intrinsically motivated progress instead of a scripted end result. Process Consulting meshes well with that because you are helping clients articulate where they want to go and then walking with them, maybe not knowing whether you’ll go right or left in a given moment, but asking the right questions in order to keep moving.  

    Kelly: In addition to Process Consulting’s natural intersection with my professional experience, my own health journey has informed so much of my desire to do this work. I was born with a rare and often invisible disorder that affects my joints. It didn’t really keep me from general life, but was always recognized as something not quite right even though none of the countless doctors I saw in my adolescence could diagnose it. When it was finally identified well into my adulthood, having a name for it was so empowering and has provided me with a community of others with the same disorder. This experience has informed how I am in the world and propelled me into a career of creating spaces to walk WITH individuals and organizations rather than doing TO or entering into relationships with already prescribed outcomes. 

    Renoulte: I work with a fair number of students one-on-one to reach their educational goals in my role as a higher education administrator. I have learned over the years, and I use this concept with my teenagers, that execution is always better when it’s their idea. If it’s my idea, not so much! It’s about having a posture of listening, gaining understanding of what they’re saying before offering suggestions for consideration, and giving them the opportunity to think things through for themselves. The Process Consulting practices make me a better consultant, coach, and administrator. Recently, I have been attracting entrepreneur accelerator programs for underrepresented populations who want to secure my consulting services. Our partnership is based on creating an impactful educational experience for their students. I am blessed to be able to marry my passion for education and entrepreneurship to help institutions provide a better experience for their underrepresented participants. It is exciting and rewarding to be a part of the life changing opportunities that are created for the students who enroll in their programs.

    Focusing in on PCT 101: what were your top takeaways from the course? What did you find most valuable? 

    Trudi: The most valuable thing for me was just having the space to learn. A lot of PCT 101 took me into the very unfamiliar territory of marketing and sales – teachers don’t have to worry about concepts like that – and that was so important for me because I could make my little mistakes and clear up my assumptions in a safe space. Mark was so patient and so thorough in teaching the information, and that was big for me. I can’t yet say I’m fully comfortable about going into the ask, in particular. I’m about to publish a book, and I have a fear of jumping into that arena of sales. I’m so glad I’m able to go back and look at the resources from PCT 101. I could use an extra shot of bravery, but at least I have a guide! And I have Mark’s voice in my head saying, “You’re not selling anything. You’re offering something that helps people.” It helps when I look at it like that. 

    Kelly: At one point during the PCT 101 course, I said to Mark that Process Consulting feels like an extension of my very way of being in the world. Curiosity, presence, questions, walking with, listening, helping, learning. It has been and continues to be my life’s work to create spaces for individuals and organizations to recognize missteps, learn from them, integrate that learning and confidently move forward into a better future. Finding out that the name for that is Process Consulting was so affirming. 

    Renoulte:  PCT 101 helped fill some vital gaps for me. For instance, it provided effective strategies to identify future clients by developing and cultivating relationships, creating a partnership rather than gaining a customer, where both the clients' and my own expertise are used to create lasting and impactful solutions. The concepts taught in PCT 101 represent how I intuitively like to do business and it gave me a practical framework and process to demonstrate that in a meaningful way to my clients.

    The class gives you a systematic approach to think about your business, brand creation, and your services so you can be consistent in your marketing. Moreover, Mark helped me to think through the value that I would bring and to establish pricing structures based on the type of interaction with my clients, e.g., compensation for remote strategy conversation vs an in-person engagement vs a full-scale project. Another strategy I learned was to identify what area I could establish myself as a content leader and how to generate interest among those who live in that “universe”. Also, I was provided with a set of activities that would allow me to consistently have clients in my pipeline, so when one partnership was ending another would begin.

    Anything else you want to make sure to say to our community, or to people just starting their Process Consulting journey in particular? 

    Trudi: Find a good mentor. I may have the necessary experience in education, and a background in corporate America and systems development, but having a strong mentor to run things by is invaluable. Surround yourself with a community of people who can help you grow, and who you can share your knowledge with too! Also, the types of things that I learned in PCT 101 about building sales, structuring a contract, they were foreign to me. I couldn’t have thought my way through those technical pieces, so having them presented to me was so helpful. So take courses that build your consulting knowledge base! Identify the gaps you need filled in order to be successful, and find the resources and people that fill them. I hate to sound like I’m making a plug, but join the Society for Process Consulting, for example! It’s a great community with great resources.  

    Kelly: I, myself, am at the beginning of this journey, so I’m not sure I have any recommendations aside from this: find a community to support you. I can’t imagine having to navigate this all on my own. 

    Renoulte: If they have any questions about the investment they need to make to take PCT 101, I’d just tell them that it’s worth the time and the money. They’ll learn so much. During the course I was engaging with clients the next day, applying what I’d just learned from the class, and I was getting results right away. Essentially I got the money I invested back already. 

    Also, I’d tell them to really trust the process. Process Consulting is about removing the power differential in relationships. The client and the consultant are both working towards the same goal and getting mutual benefits from each other’s expertise. That relationship helps you accomplish a common goal. I hope PCT 101 participants and new process consultants in general can learn how much more meaningful and productive their relationships can be through walking along that process. 


  • Tuesday, May 17, 2022 8:11 AM | Hallie Knox

    Are you working with clients who are still in the process of returning to the office - or debating the value of mandating that return? As organizations across the world embrace, reject, or compromise with the work-from-home movement, a year-old reflection from our founder and course facilitator Mark Vincent feels timely. How have you experienced the richness of a comfortable working environment over the past couple years - and how might you help your clients achieve greater employee well-being through an open discussion about the pandemic-sparked new world of remote work?

    The past week found my wife and me in an historic adobe home in the heart of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The walled-in patio was so pleasant and so full of birdsong we spent the better part of the day sitting in the shade reading books rather than seeing farther sights and further sites. 

    Because we were in one place long enough, we began to identify the birds: grackles, white-winged doves, ladder-backed woodpeckers, robins, wrens. Our books rested on our laps as we listened to their squawks and songs, watched them interact, noticed where they perched, and which were most wary of the two elderly little dogs popping in and out of the casa's doggie door to check on things. We were becoming aware of the larger ecosystem that surrounded us. 

    Pre-pandemic, a good portion of the professional class running our economy lived walled off from natural ecosystems. They were literally compartmentalized inside the walls of the machines where they worked. They could easily ignore the created world because they were did not see it. Their ever-longer working days were surrounded by steel and glass - commuting in traffic, sitting at a desk, working out at the health club, dining with friends and colleagues, or entering their homes.  

    The swish of exercise machines. 

    Sounds of dispensing espresso and lattes. 

    Noise pollution of air brakes and jet engines. 

    Putting on headphones to further shut out the world while scrolling through social media. 

    Who had time or space to listen to the birds and enjoy the play of light as a day faded, let alone hear the groaning of creation being over-taxed and depleted? 

    Having worked from home these many months, people have had to face their inner and outer realities.  To manage all our new and returning uncertainties, the healthy ones among us used the opportunity to re-integrate by making comfortable working spaces in their homes, building healthier routines, investing in family relationships, getting outdoors, and prioritizing their time.  They are listening to bird song as they work.  Natural light surrounds them now, instead of fluorescent. They are getting more air. 

     Those who sought this opportunity within a pandemic joined with those who had already right-sized their lives. Living a more conscious and integrated life, it is difficult to reclaim any passion for debates about cubicles versus open offices, white noise or Muzak, or whether hotel points and airline miles belong to the company or the road warrior.  Done with that! 

    My hope is that leaders who care about future value and the world's flourishing will now invite further integration among those they employ, the customers they serve, and the larger world that is not yet born. Seizing the possibility to live more health-fully brings momentum for adding even more flourishing  as we emerge from pandemic protocols. Here's to more working porches, lanais, placitas and patios.   

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2022 8:32 PM | Hallie Knox

    Catherine (Draeger) Pederson, Ph.D., is the CEO of Loving Venti, LLC., a Nonprofit Consultant, an Adjunct Lecturer at UW-Milwaukee - and this month's spotlighted member! She draws on years of experience as the Executive Director of various small-to-medium sized nonprofits and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ten Outstanding Young America's (TOYA) award in 2015 from the United States Junior Chamber.

    How do you approach client engagements when you know that the end result will look nothing like the initial proposed target? With intention, goalposts, and a plan - all held as lightly as possible.

    If my clients knew where they should be in three to five months, they probably wouldn’t need my services. I work with small nonprofits, and let me tell you something: people who are launching nonprofits are bursting with passion, vision, and focus like you wouldn’t believe. It’s pretty miraculous how far a person can get, and how much they can accomplish, with just those three things. Eventually, however, roadblocks arise, and gaps or unfamiliar challenges surface. When I step into these places of ambiguity with my who, what, when, where, why, and how, I am fully aware that the answers to all those key questions will likely change at least once during the course of our work together! 

    A common example of this is a client coming to me in the belief that they need help developing their fundraising plan. Often enough, somewhere during our work together we realize they already HAVE a robust, functioning fundraising plan – but there is another gap somewhere that, if addressed, could lead to a greater return on investment. Perhaps the plan is in place, but the fundraising staff, who in spite of their passion for the organization may not have backgrounds in fundraising, require coaching in order to put the plan more effectively into action. Imagine if I were to halt the process and say, “Now wait: you hired me to create a fundraising plan so that’s what we need to do; if you want to address the coaching issue you’ll have to hire me back for another project.” What kind of Listener, Learner and Helper would that make me?

    The practices of process consulting allow consultant and client to collaboratively solidify an objective and direction, because forward motion is not possible without targets. But, thank goodness, flexibility is intentionally built into that process – process consulting is anything but rigid. As new insights and challenges are uncovered, my clients and I have the space and capacity to address them and adapt our plan and methods along the way. It helps me to think of my projects as paths I’m walking with my clients, noticing and reacting to the journey as it comes, even changing direction mid-step if problems or opportunity is revealed. So much room is left open for learning, creativity, and adventure in this model, especially compared to projects approached as rigid lists of boxes to be ticked!

    This flexibility is so necessary and valuable in my work. There are simply too many things that small and/or new nonprofits need to know! It would be impossible for a consultant to truly frame every detail out – even after a day-long discovery call, surprises would still abound. There are just too many possible tangents, and because a small nonprofit is simply not going to have the funds to hire you back for a follow-up, it is imperative to leave space to pivot within the scope of the work. To assume that no unexpected issues will arise, to not leave space for those but to instead tell clients that any new challenges would need to be addressed through a new project – with more of their hard-won funds – would be downright unethical. As the consultant, my role is to listen deeply for the problems and solutions that haven’t yet been uncovered, and work with clients to address them right then and there.

    As I mentioned above, a surprising amount of good can happen with little more than passion, vision, and focus. For my own part, I am passionate about my clients, about these young and fiery organizations striving to make a difference in the community and the world. Our logo at Loving Venti is of a broken cup repaired using gold - a play on the Japanese artwork of kintsugi. Even the best organizations have cracks and flaws, which we as process consultants seek to fill in the belief that when a community is served by those organizations, that community is not just being improved, but cherished.

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022 9:45 PM | Hallie Knox

    This month’s Member Spotlight falls on Michael Magalsky, Certified Process Consultant and the founder and Principal Architect at infoVia. Now an independent consultant specializing in Information Architecture, Data Warehouse Modeling and Implementation, and Data Security, Michael draws from his quarter-century of data and analytics experience at Micron Technologies while walking alongside his numerous clients.  

    I participated in the Society’s Process Consulting Training course at just the right moment. My professional life, previously so successful and smooth-flowing, hit an unexpected bump when my decades-long employment came to an end. Undeterred, I started my own company only two days later; and promptly injured my relationship with my very first client. I can see now that this harm was largely caused by my own tendencies to be too forceful, and maybe just a little bit of a know-it-all. 

    Something wasn’t working. I wanted to assist my clients, lending them my expertise to guide them through complex issues and challenges, but the listening piece just wasn’t coming naturally for me. Luckily for me, the Process Consulting Training reminded me that listening is a competency and skill that can be learned, practiced, and constantly honed. It had to start with me moving out of “I’m an expert, let me tell you what to do” mode, and into a space of respect, good questions, and deep listening. 

    If you know me personally, you know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and think all my thoughts out loud. High-quality listening is something I have to do with conscious effort, and it takes constant discipline. I’m still working on it, but I can say that today my company has more clients than ever before, and they are all smiling ear to ear. My team and I are transparent, admitting when we don’t know something, and we come in with a listening attitude, ready to innovate together. I intentionally meet my clients with as open a mind as possible, expecting to learn as much from them as I hope they will from me. No single human is ever going to come up with the perfect plan or the most elegant solution, especially in the complex world of data and analytics. Everyone wants to innovate, and everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than just themselves. The best ideas only ever surface through collaboration and partnership. 

    My constant work toward being a better listener has allowed me to experience more of the thing I’m most passionate about in this world: adventure. I seek out adventure in all areas of my life, and in my work I unearth the most exciting challenges and new experiences when I’m doing my best and deepest listening and learning. It’s like climbing a mountain – anytime you might think you’ve reached the peak, just put your hand to your ear and you’ll discover summit upon summit still to go. (For more on this, read my blog about the Great Data Adventure here.) That’s what drives me to get out of bed every morning. Pause and listen. What utterly new situations, people and challenges are you going to discover as you walk alongside your clients today? What new stories will you be able to tell? 

  • Wednesday, February 23, 2022 10:48 AM | Hallie Knox

    When confronted with something completely unprecedented in your experience, it is a best practice habit to follow a simple progression of thought, and as soon as possible. In other words: get after it immediately! 

    It is almost incredible how many families, neighborhood organizations, and enterprises small and large are waiting rather than chasing — standing on the brakes rather than stepping on the gas.   If an organization drinks deeply from hard-won mission/vision/values, it has the guidance and governance under which to accelerate through change. If your client is still hemming and hawing about the proper words, or about whether a mission statement even matters, then they are hemming and hawing their time away during COVID, social unrest, and economic uncertainty.  

    Encourage your clients to find their creative space and start working through these questions without delay.  One way or another, this mental wrestling needs to happen:  

    • What wisdom was left for us by others as they faced their unprecedented circumstances? What implications might there be for our time? 
    • What actually is happening? What do trends imply? 
    • Why does doing anything/something even matter? Toward what end are we wanting to move? 
    • What do we know that we do not know? How will we gather insight? 
    • Who is going to play which role as we address these hard circumstances? 
    • When do we want to complete the next stage of our work of addressing this? 
    • How, exactly, are we going to go after this? 
    • Asking these questions brings a holistic and comprehensive data set, and quickly. 

    Don’t worry about answering the questions in a particular order. But do worry about answering them all.  

    Worry that when they've been populated, they flow together and have continuity.  

    Worry that the client's core team has helped to formulate them and is in explicit agreement with them.  

    Worry that all of communication from here draws directly from this core document.  

    Worry that this becomes a central reference point for all subsequent work.  

    Worry that as new data comes to light, the client will reconvene and adjust the core document with the same rigor with which it was formed in the first place! 

    Don’t worry about it - and watch future opportunity vaporize and current value disintegrate. 

    I was taught to think quickly and thoroughly  by a college professor. His work has influenced almost forty years of my life thus far, helping to guide extended families of blood, faith, neighborhood, town, business, and state in the critical issues of the day. This way of thinking and working influenced my parenting and family life — raising children, shepherding my family through long years of my first wife’s physical suffering, and deciding to marry again and blend a family. It also helped me build a business for the long term, with legacy in mind. 

    Getting more specific, this thoughtful rush to triage and problem solve before reactively responding (or not responding at all) has helped my leadership through 
    • Stagflation 
    • 9/11 
    • 2008-9 
    • Mergers and Acquisitions gone awry 
    • Capital funding efforts gone off the rails 
    • Death and departure of business partners 
    • Death of a spouse 
    • Introducing new products and services to markets that didn’t even know they needed such a thing  
    There is no individual credit taken here. It always took a team of people who knew far more than I and who could leverage their gifts to make something good happen that restored, healed, offered hope, or in some way made the world a little better.  
    A few observations on where we are at this time and the benefits of this thoughtfully rapid approach: 
    • We really are not in an unprecedented moment, even though it might feel that way. Something like this will happen again. And then again. 
    • "Normal" has not changed. Normal involves death, dying, pestilence, famine, war, and suffering. Our normal is working to minimize these, reduce, limit, and find respite from them. Then our descendants are not harmed by our selfish responses but rather are uplifted by our courageous service and  prepared to serve those who proceed from them. Perhaps we have had some years to vacation from this reality; perhaps we have squandered the time. Perhaps now we are ready to re-engage the real work of building a purposeful and civic-minded human community. 
    • Moving to describing an objective future state is the starting point of a leader in difficult moments. After doing this we can begin gathering resources and people around that description. Getting at the questions listed above help us do this, and roles, actions, and objectives now become external reference points for all those who join us in making something happen. 
    • Working this way helps us redirect and even incorporate dissent. If someone wishes to be an enemy to the process of thinking and then acting, they cannot hide in the shadows; the objectives toward which we strive are not hidden and are regularly communicated. Their enmity is thus tied to the effort in which we are engaged far more than a personal hatred. It really is difficult to hate a person who is offering you a listening ear, is not stepping on your dignity and treats you with respect — even when they disagree with you. 
    • Significantly less time gets wasted by stopping, thinking, gathering resources, and then acting. When one is the fool who rushes in or the fool who thinks tomorrow is the day to do something, time and resources disappear through myriad holes. 
    It requires the highest fortitude to not rush in and then to turn one’s strength toward building from a foundation even as it seems the house is falling down. If we can learn anything from this moment in history as leaders, it is that the house is falling down, and that we are absolute fools if our normal is delay, denial, and waiting for someone else to do something for our benefit.

  • Monday, February 14, 2022 7:21 AM | Hallie Knox

    I took a walk with a friend who had spent some of his growing up years as a refugee in the largest refugee camp in Kenya. Because I had spent some years as a humanitarian aid worker in similar situations in other parts of the world, I was curious. I asked, “Who was in charge of the camp?”

    His voice gained energy as he explained how the refugees had organized themselves for governance and named the leaders of their long term refugee camp communities as they had done in their home communities.

    His response surprised and humbled me. I had been expecting him to tell me that the United Nations or Doctors Without Borders oversaw the camp. My friend saw the refugee camp from a different angle. As a refugee himself, he rightly saw himself and his fellow displaced people as the subjects of their own lives and not as objects to be acted upon by an external agency. They were in charge of the camp.

    That experience made me remember a time long ago when I was writing a fundraising letter for a local affiliate of a national nonprofit. I arranged to interview a mother from the neighborhood that the nonprofit served. I had been told that her son excelled in school and that his success could become a good impact story for donors.

    The mother turned my expectations upside down and made me see things in a new way. She did not credit the nonprofit with her son’s academic performance or for her increased family stability. As she reflected on her life, she and her family were rightly at the center of their own story. They were the people who were in charge, taking action and using the resources available to them. They had never thought of themselves as being part of the “target group” of a local affiliate of a national nonprofit. The nonprofit was one of the many resources that the mother accessed in the complex constellation of how she managed her family. Her son’s success had to do with her own nurture, their family culture, school support, and many other factors. The mother did not consider the nonprofit as the savior of her family.

    Have you ever seen examples times when a “helper” takes all the credit for the outcomes? Times when the personal autonomy and decision-making power of a person or group is diminished because outsiders have decided what would be helpful rather than coming alongside with humility as a learner? This happens all too often in international, intercultural and interracial settings when the power imbalance tips towards the helper.

    When I first started reflecting on the vocabulary of process consulting, I felt wary of the word “help” because I had seen too many examples of times when “help” represented power being exercised over someone who was perceived to be in a position of less power. Help must always be paired with humility and a deep respect for the Client’s knowledge and lived experience.

    After a serious earthquake near Jogjakarta, Indonesia, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization (NGO) worked with a community to plan long range recovery in their village. I played a process consulting role with the local NGO. Each of us brought knowledge and background to the co-created plan. The local people knew the relationship dynamics of the village, the leadership structure, and how things needed to function. The local NGO brought their experiences in working with other Indonesian disasters and their awareness of local supply chains. As an outsider, I brought knowledge of international standards for humanitarian response and an ability to ask the questions that would allow a complete plan to develop so that funding could be secured. The ownership of the project rested with the local community. They assessed the needs, created the action plans, and rebuilt their village. The local NGO and my international NGO supported the community’s action.

    In contrast, after the Asian tsunami of 2004, I witnessed an entire village of brand new homes sitting empty and unused. They had been rebuilt in Aceh by a humanitarian agency. No local people moved into that building development because the “helpers” had never consulted local people in the planning of house styles and never asked people what was important to them. The “helpers” had the power and did not know what they did not know.

    My years of international experience have shaped my practice as a process consultant. As process consultants, we help Clients when we come alongside with questions and an attitude of learning rather than an attitude of taking charge and solving problems to our own satisfaction. We help best when we remember that our Clients’ choices and actions are at the center of their stories. We humbly support, clarify, and co-create as a resource to them, but their success rightly belongs to them. The Client, not the process consultant, needs to be the star of their own show.

    People often ask me what a process consultant does. I developed the Venn Diagram, below, to help me describe the role of a process consultant coming alongside a Client. A process consulting approach works well both internationally and domestically, as well as interculturally. A key characteristic of a process consultant is the humility to be curious and to recognize the deep wells of knowledge and experience that our Clients bring. Our part is to ask the questions to bring the clarity needed for forward movement.

    How have your life experiences shaped or enhanced your current work as a process consultant?

  • Monday, January 24, 2022 5:04 PM | Hallie Knox

    Our current member spotlight and guest blogger is Eloiza Altoro! Eloiza is a national and international Organizational Development Consultant. She founded her consulting business, Mind Redesign Consulting, over 20 years ago. She specializes in partnering with nonprofits and professional associations within the areas of governance, planning, transition management, and executive leadership coaching. She is also the Fund Advisor of the Nonprofit Management Fund, a donor-advised fund, which disseminates capacity-building mini-grants within the Greater Milwaukee Area. 

    Here’s a question: how relevant is the first degree you ever earned to the career you hold today? As a young adult I majored in clinical psychology and professional communications, and today I am an Organizational Development Consultant. From the outside that may seem like a leap, but there’s a common thread between the study of psychology and organizational development.  Psychology is the study of human behavior and organizational development is all about changing behaviors to create positive cultural and systematic organizational shifts. You cannot influence organizational change without directly dealing with the people within an organization.  

    After years spent working in and leading non-profits, earning a Master's in Organizational Leadership and Management, and starting my own consulting business over two decades ago, the underlying goal has remained constant. I just want to work with people to clearly identify the issues and to come up with creative solutions.

    have learned that "helping" can be beneficial or hindering as a consultant. I excel at helping non-profit organizations through complex internal challenges - when I help "the right way."

    As a process consultant, I am most helpful when I put the client first, listening actively and solving those complex problems collaboratively. However, the longer you are a consultant, the harder it becomes to stifle an automatic response to solving problems. I realize that I still have plenty of opportunities to work on setting ego and pre-conceived notions aside in order to truly remain client-focused!

    For those aspiring or new consultants out there, remember that wanting to help isn’t enough. Although it is necessary to let the client guide the process, you still need to bring your "whole self" to the process.  I’m not talking about bragging about your expertise; I’m talking about being true to yourself by cultivating your natural talents, creating your niche and knowing your limitations. When a consultant deeply and authentically embraces the gifts they bring to the table, fully understands how they can contribute to the overall health of an organization, and is able to effectively communicate that to potential clients, they will be able to take their business to the next level of endurance and success.

    Non-profit consulting is not a job for me, it’s my calling in life. I wake up every morning excited to see what the day offers. I would argue that authenticity is the number one characteristic necessary to survive and thrive as a consultant. The longer that I have been in this field, the more humble and confident I have become in the work that I do and the decisions that I make.

  • Tuesday, December 14, 2021 11:16 AM | Hallie Knox

    It sure feels like we are living in a brand-new time - a time of deep entrenchment of opposing views. From a contentious national election to the pressure points of a worldwide pandemic, from the growing wealth disparity to the state of race relations to the conversation around climate change, a sense of division seems to pervade the communities of this country like never before.  

    Bob Dylan thought times were a-changin’ 60 years ago. You may feel that today’s divisions are just 2021 versions of that same old thing, or perhaps you, too, feel like we are living in a time of unprecedented change. How do we as process consultants help others lead in the midst of such turbulence and disunity?  

    Humanity as a species could rarely be called peaceful. According to sociologist Todd Gitlin of Columbia University, America’s one constant is division. From the forceful displacement of indigenous people groups to the horrors of slavery to the fight for women’s rights, when has this country (let alone the world) ever truly been unified? In the face of such issues, how could it be? 

    We as process consultants are called to listen. We build, maintain, and grow relationships to help others most effectively chart their leadership paths to serve their organizational mission. We give help by learning what is present in others’ current belief systems. Through listening to how they view their world, we help leaders identify how to lead a diverse staff, board, and constituency with eyes on the focused mission. 

    Recently, a colleague and I moderated a workshop we entitled Engaged Donors in a Divided Culture at a national economic development conference. We engaged a panel of noteworthy non-profit leaders: a K-12 school superintendent, a Chief Executive of a national relief and development organization, and a Chief Executive of a United Way chapter. We wanted to know: how did these successful organizations keep meeting and even exceeding their goals with such a wide and varied constituency, whose members appear to be at odds half the time? How did the board members and senior team members who span that wide divide work effectively together?  

    What stuck with me from our panelist's powerful responses were the following pieces of lived advice of how to engage donors in a divided time:  

    • Pursue innovation, because that is what wins market share. Change is constant. 

    • Be relevant. What can that mean for your organization? Ask your clients. They will tell you.  

    • Think generationally. Do you have different strategies to reach different age groups?  

    • Relations are still vital, probably MORE vital in times of great polarization.  

    • Do acrobatics, if you must, to reach your target clients. Do so with grit and defiance. Authentic caring wins in the long run.  

    • Do not chase yesterday’s donor. Be more future focused than hung up on preserving the past.  

    • Stay on mission and core values. Always. Those on the poles of whatever division will try to push you off mission. Come back, repeatedly. Your mission is your organization’s north star.  

    Maybe, as Todd Gitlin says, our disunity is actually what unifies us. What would it look like to quit trying to get everyone to see the world “like I do,” and to instead embrace differences and commit to on-mission relationships for the betterment of a beloved organization? 

    Can we as helpers, as process consultants, empower our clients to embrace the differences around them (even though doing so assuredly sounds much easier than it is)? We are listeners. We can lead by example by working together even in our disunity and by practicing authentic caring first. By modeling such caring we can “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” as Stephen Covey taught so well in his best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Whether we are simply reliving past cycles of disunity or swimming in truly uncharted waters - we can commit to prioritizing relationships with all persons. The times may be a-changin’ but the practices of caring, listening, helping, and learning can unite us all.  


    1. The demands of change from the pandemic’s beginnings to our current realities are explored in Dawn Y. Graber’s blog series on Change found at:  

    2. Discerning the difference between Technical Problems & Adaptive Challenges is central to agreeing on what kind of organizational or interpersonal animal we are dealing with. 

    - Technical problems are those that are more concrete, have known solutions, and can be fixed by those who understand and have the capability to solve the problem. Inflating the pressure in your car tires is a technical solution to a technical problem. 

    - Adaptive challenges are those situations in which not only is there no known solution, we are having difficulty even agreeing on how to frame the challenge. Since there is so much variance in possible solutions, the action is not fixing but rather is learning. Someone learning how to adjust their habits of eating, exercising and other life-style changes for better health is initially facing an adaptive challenge. 

    For more on this approach and others, see Phil Bergey’s podcasts and blogs at and  
    3. Use Wicked Questions to bring to light competing challenges that must be confronted to succeed. See description and examples at: questions/  

    Welcoming and inviting engagement when two or more simultaneously realities exist can elicit strategic possibilities not first evident when our planning is constrained to either/or thinking. Instead, how can you build on both/and strategies despite paradoxical forces at play?  

    4. Navigating Polarities is a powerful approach to so many of the challenges we face in our work and in life. 

    Using a definition of polarity in which both poles form a dynamic tension such that both are needed for the good of the whole, it focuses on discerning the benefits of each pole as well as the overuses of each pole. The difficulty in work and life occurs when I compare the benefits of my preferred pole to the overuses of your preferred pole. The opportunity is to find ways to navigate both poles to achieve the benefits of each pole through a third way. 

    For more on this approach and others, see Phil Bergey’s podcasts and blogs at and  

    5. Other Resources: 
    • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and ReligionHaidt, Jonathan. (2012). Vintage. Social psychologist and bestselling author Jonathan Haidt takes a moral reasoning approach that values the gut at least as much as the mind. He argues that people have a set of moral values that guide their preferences and decision making. He explains why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such differing intuitions about right and wrong. 

    • Change: How organizations achieve hard-to-imagine results in uncertain and volatile times. Kotter, J. P., Akhtar, V., & Gupta, G. (2021). Wiley. This recent publication responds to the fervent nimbleness and adaptability needed by successful organizations in today’s fervent sea of change. Kotter and team, as change management experts, use case studies to highlight strategies to engage in breaking free from legacy systems to compete in today’s marketplace. 

  • Wednesday, December 01, 2021 9:34 PM | Hallie Knox

    Jennifer Miller is a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer and Owner of Strategically Connected, a process consultant, and a Society member who believes that at the core of all organizations and processes, people are what drive change and growth in a company. Her passion for supporting companies to build scalable processes has impacted many organizations over the years, one of which received the honor of the #1 Fastest-Growing Technology company in Austin and #86 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. She served as President of the Austin American Marketing Association Board (a national organization focused on connecting and developing marketers) during the 2020-2021 Board Year winning the national “Turn It Up Chapter of the Year” award against 70+ chapters. Jennifer embeds herself into the lives of the companies she works with to help them in very intentional and strategic ways. She believes that every problem is "figureoutable," and she strives to help bring simplicity to complex situations. Continue reading for her thoughts on how the core tenets and skills of process consulting intertwine with her work in the world of marketing.

    The worlds of marketing and process consulting link in a thousand tiny ways, but no commonality is more evident than each field's dependence upon deep, active listening. Think of those insidious online ads following you through cyberspace – how did the Instagram deities know that this gadget, jacket, or leather-bound journal is the exact thing you now want on your Christmas wishlist? Well, they've been "listening."

    This virtual and automated listening can sometimes allow for a personalized touch, but there is nothing more significant than YOU taking the time to truly listen to your customers. The listening necessary to form and maintain effective customer engagement is of the deepest and most comprehensive sort, and it focuses on authentic connection and the identification of genuine needs. This connection happens externally with the company's target audience and competitors, and internally with its employees and culture.

    In my work with clients, ranging from financial organizations to software companies and beyond, my focus is consistently on encouraging and growing a company's connection to and comprehensive understanding of its context. It is so easy for a new company to swoop in, make assumptions about their customers' wants, and forge ahead with its own roadmap instead of pausing to listen. My task often focuses on helping shift a company's message to potential customers from "Here's what you need and why" to initial questions like, "What goals and challenges are keeping you up at night?" Once that real conversation has occurred, customers can draw to a service or product that is genuinely the thing they want or need.

    As I mentioned above, this comprehensive, contextual listening needs to occur in both an organization's internal and external realms. Companies often forget that the practices of internal communication, culture-building, and employee engagement are marketing. Employees are the first point of contact, and a holistic picture cannot be constructed without dialogue with the front-line employees. What could be more engaging than employees who feel heard and acknowledged, whose experiences with customers are taken into account, whose opinions are considered in the making of high-level corporate decisions, and who are therefore more likely to be fully invested in and live and breathe the company mission and mindset?

    It is also worth noting that comprehensive external listening should not be limited to a customer base alone; companies often need to be reminded of how valuable it is to listen to and engage with potential competitors deeply. My questions for my clients often are: What is their impact? How do you relate to them? What are your differentiators that make you special and unique? As a process consultant, I work to understand that differentiation and encourage my clients never to stop reevaluating their place in relation to competitors.

    The process consulting principle of listening adaptively is also vital in the constantly changing world of marketing. Technology and platforms are constantly updating, consumer culture swings this way and that, and customer reactions can surprise you time and time again. Processes have to be built in ways that encourage quick readjustments, with methods and campaigns constantly tested, tweaked, and iterated upon. 

    At the end of the day, marketing is all about people - understanding people, seeing challenges through the eyes of customers and employees, and supporting growth through adaptability. Approach today a little differently – 

    • How can you seek understanding first?
    • What questions can you ask before assumptions?
    • Where can you creatively adapt to chaotic situations?

    "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits and sells itself." - Peter F. Drucker

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