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Giving Complexity a Bear Hug

Posted By Mark L Vincent, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Organizational complexity is as present as ever. Business leaders have been slapped into realization of complexity yet again during Pandemic Time. The deep throws of 2020 have heightened awareness that complexity extends beyond the organization, its people and product mix, to how the quickly the realities of economic, societal and political forces can explode the best-laid plans. 

Expertise in managing complexity with a business leader in moments like these does not come from knowing stuff and writing prescriptions. It comes from a capacity to plunge into not knowing alongside those who also do not know and yet bear responsibility for any outcomes. The ability to form a process and learn beside leaders as they make adaptive moves is the true and needed skill.

In the September 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review Gőkçe Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath wrote a masterful article called Learning to live with complexity (pp. 69-76). Here are the distilled key points:

  • Numerous, independent parts that endlessly interact with one another make for a complexity beyond any one person’s knowledge, expertise or capacity to predict.
  • Few leaders or constituents acknowledge these limits, convinced that simple and accustomed patterns are what should work.
  • Inside complexity, the rarely occurring and unexpected event can outweigh the significance of the intended and regular result.

Direction Sign

No organizational type is an exception. Leaders everywhere are in the deep end of a murky pool. What to do? The authors suggest a greater effort to forecast, to mitigate risks and to make sure the bandwidth of leadership perspective increases. This is where a process consultant can be helpful. Here is one example of each:

  • Forecast: Manage according to expected income with best, likely and worst-case scenarios (conservative estimates please).  This approach is widely known and seldom practiced with real rather than manipulated or out-of-date data.  How this gets done is specific to the context of any one organization. It cannot just be copied and pasted from another elsewhere. It has to be figured out before it can be used.
  • Mitigate Risks:  Establish a cash reserve with an expected percentage of savings. This populates the balance sheet. Strong balance sheets are what see organizations through unexpected complexity. The intended direction of a balance sheet should be considered a best practice for strategic and planning conversations. The question, “how will this affect our balance sheet” is not only a critical one. The one who asks it, persistently, brings wisdom to the board room.
  • Increase Bandwidth: Float ideas and seek perspective informally before launching initiatives. These conversations inform what the initiative becomes. In the rush to launch and show how competent they are, business leaders often hear helpful perspective after the initiative is launched. However, by then is it criticism rather than a helpful suggestion. The humility to ask ahead of time makes the difference. Process consultants can help set the timing and safety of these conversations.

We can be stopped and stalled by complexity or we can learn to embrace it. The process consultant is more helpful if they assume complexity and the need to joyfully learn alongside a client.  If the consultant shifts away from process orientation toward a product orientation – moving from being a non-anxious presence to someone anxiously needing to make a sale – they miss the point. The client is better served if the consultant spends more time trying to adapt their previous knowledge base to a new and more complex reality.

-mark l vincent

Dr. Mark L. Vincent is the founder of the Society for Process Consulting and former CEO of Design Group International. Mark is also the instructor of the foundational Process Consultant Training 101, which starts a new cohort 10 July 2020.

Tags:  better consulting  consulting  consulting lessons  courses  mark l vincent  organizational complexity  process consulting 

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How exercising resiliency can make your consulting practice sustainable.

Posted By Kim Stezala, Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

How exercising resiliency can make your consulting practice sustainable


By Guest Blogger and Member Sandra H Quick, JOY Unspeakable, LLC


Timing is everything. Many believe these are “the worst of times.” Yet these are “the best of times” to exercise resiliency to make your process consulting practice sustainable. 


I am reminiscing for the THEN, BC - Before Contagion.  I had consulting dates on the calendar and clients promptly returning phone calls and emails. Back THEN, clients engaged in meaningful conversations as I helped them gain a clear vision of their future and the steps needed to get there. THEN, I was not hesitant about staying in a hotel or flying to their destination. THEN is past, we are in the NOW. And I move on.


NOW is the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic. In the NOW I have financial stress. Do I continue to support the charities which are in desperate need or do I use those limited resources to pay bills? I just cancelled my $1M business liability insurance. I discontinued my virtual office space and put money into upgrading my website to increase online presence and to be more culturally in tune with my potential clients.


In the NOW I have emotional stress. I suffer from grief for my loss of control over my day-to-day life.  In the NOW I have cultural stress. What do I do if the client insists on meeting face to face, in a closed room with 8 people at a 10-person table who are not wearing masks? My cultural position is to obey all of the health and safety recommendations of the scientific community which means I am NOW culturally incongruent with my clients. How do I honor my values and beliefs as I attempt to follow the federal, state and local virus protection regulations? I continue to build resiliency skills to strengthen my cultural capacity to emerge from NOW into NEXT.


I have moved on to NEXT:  the time of AD - Active Doing™. NEXT is the state of Active Doing to exercise strength training by building capacity for resiliency. Resiliency is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Being more resilient means I am better able to navigate life’s challenges from a place of strength and conviction.


Amit Sood, MD, Mayo Clinic, offers an additional explanation, “resiliency is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.”  These are the “best of times” to practice Active Doing by building resiliency to make my process consulting practice sustainable. There are nine attributes of resiliency skill building. I am hopeful that you are practicing some of these in the NOW. They include:


·        Connection - reaching out with a “good news” email;

·        Gratitude - being thankful for what you have;

·        Kindness - doing something nice for somebody;

·        Optimism - being certain that this uncertainty will end even if the NOW looks bleak;

·        Composure - staying calm, breath in-breath out, in the midst of confusion and frustration;

·        Patience - longsuffering with people and/or situations that confound you;

·        Sense of purpose - focus on the reasons you started this process consulting practice in the beginning—to help people;

·        Forgiveness - both for others and for yourself; and

·        Acceptance - for those things you cannot change.


resiliency image

How can you incorporate these resiliency attributes into your daily practice? What would that look, sound and feel like? What’s your investment worth? 


Journey with me and fellow consultants to NEXT where we are  Actively Doing resiliency skill building in a 9-week course:  Building Cultural Congruence through Resiliency.  The value is in the capstone project. You will address/resolve a personal or professional NOW culturally INcongruent issue that would build your capacity for resiliency in preparation for the NEXT. The subsequent Plan of Action, using those resiliency skills, has the potential to benefit you, your family and your business or ministry.  


The course starts in mid-July 2020 (dates TBD) and fulfills the requirement for credential renewal for Certified Process Consultants. 


Contact me at to discuss how this course might help you build your resiliency, cultural congruency and consulting capacity.


Sandra Quick is the Principal Consultant at Joy Unspeakable, LLC, a founding member of the Society for Process Consulting and a member of its Standards and Ethics Committee.


Tags:  consulting  cultural competency  process consulting  resiliency  Sandra Quick 

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The Seduction of Expertise and Other Consulting Lessons

Posted By Kim Stezala, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Edgar Schein is a retired professor from MIT and national legend in the field of process consulting. He first codified and described this iterative, adaptive form of consulting in 1969 as author of Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development. Yes, that is more than 50 years ago.  

One of our members, Lon Swartzentruber, Executive Process Consultant, and CEO of Design Group International, approached "Ed" with a sense of curiosity: "I wonder what would happen if I reached out to him? Would he respond? What would we talk about?" So, Lon tracked down the address, wrote a letter and mailed it off not knowing what to expect. 

Remarkably, Ed responded quickly and scheduled a call to find out who this curious person was and why he was so passionate about process consulting.  

I recently interviewed Lon about this incredible experience, his key takeaways, and reminders of why, what and how we do consulting. Lon shared these nuggets of wisdom:

  • The value of lifelong learning. Even in his 90's Ed Schein wants to keep learning and during his conversations would often pose powerful questions back to Lon. He's curious, too, about the adoption of process consulting by people across the country.

  • The importance of not being "seduced" into using your own technical expertise – instead follow the principles of process consulting, including humble inquiry, accessing your ignorance, and honoring the client's wisdom.

  • Know the fundamentals. Lon shared an analogy about Pete Rose and the Philadelphia Phillies - listen to the interview for this creative comparison to being a great consultant. 

  • Don’t rob the client of power in the process. They own the problem and solution and if you take that away you are not really helping.

Download the interview below and see what lessons you gain to help your process consulting practice.

Special thanks to Lon for this contribution.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  consulting lessons  Edgar Schein  Kim Stezala  Lon Swartzentruber  process consulting 

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Paycheck Protection Program

Posted By Kim Stezala, Wednesday, April 1, 2020

As all of us continue to cope with the realities of social distancing and the closure of major institutions due to the  COVID-19 crisis, there is hope through the recently passed CARES Act. 


Through this act, the federal government has included financial assistance to small businesses, sole proprietors, self-employed individuals and independent contractors, specifically in a provision called the “Paycheck Protection Program” which is essentially a small business loan and loan forgiveness program.


Many Society members and the clients we serve may qualify under the guidelines, however, financial institutions are still learning more about how this program will be implemented. For instance, the guidance is not clear on how people who don’t receive a traditional paycheck would provide salary and wage verification in the loan application or proof of payments to oneself during the loan repayment period.  The rules are clearer for “gig” workers who receive a 1099 from one entity (from Uber or Lyft, for instance) and could apply for unemployment the same as a W-2 worker would.


Important dates to consider:

April 3 – applications open for small businesses (including non-profit organizations) and sole proprietors

April 10 – applications open for independent contractors and self-employed individuals.


We wanted to share this basic information below with direct links. While the Society cannot offer financial or legal advice, we can share these resources with you.


Information about who qualifies for what:

Information on loan terms and a sample application.

We wish everyone good health and best wishes for continued success.

Tags:  CARES act  consulting  Paycheck Protection Program  self-employed 

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New Fast Track Certification!

Posted By Kim Stezala, Thursday, March 26, 2020

Extra time on your hands due to the Covid-19 crisis? Unsure of your future employment or consulting situation? 

Try our special Fast-Track Process Consulting 101 course. The condensed course is only $1,500 (normally $2,200), with the same content as our regular PCT101 AND you earn Certified Process Consultant status. It’s all online with personal guides/mentors to help propel you forward.  You will learn:
How process consulting is different
How to build your consulting pipeline and ecosystem
The art of creating client agreements
The elements of a strong business plan

Register now - starts APRIL 1 or APRIL 3 – your choice!

Tags:  consulting  lon swartzentruber  mark l vincent  online learning  process consulting  training 

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