Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: The Secrets of Consulting

When I started this blog, I set a rule for myself that I would never post simply to point out interesting ideas from others without adding some form of value regarding the application of those ideas.  I'm about to break it.

I was reading about Virginia Satir's techniques for helping others/yourself to transform ingrained behavioural rules a few days ago.  It offered the insight that you could apply a three-step transformation to a rule such as "I must always deliver good news" as follows:

  1. Change the word "must" to "can" - ie "I can always deliver good news"
  2. Change the word "always" to "sometimes" - ie "I can sometimes deliver good news"
  3. Apply a "when clause" listing the conditions under which you can do it - ie "I can deliver good news when I don't have to lie to do it or what might seem 'bad' to me might be good to someone else".
I thought this was an interesting technique to apply in helping people move into transparency under Agile.  Sometimes the "Green status report" culture is so deeply ingrained it takes a lot of shifting, and I could see this system really helping people to move through the transition.  

Then, I took the 'self-examination' focus and thought about rules I could apply it to in myself.  I am constantly encouraging both people I coach and friends to pick up books that have inspired me.  Twice this week I handed my kindle to a friend and said "here, this book is gold .. check the stuff I highlighted and you'll see why you need to read it."  Last night I realised I can write myself a new rule:

I can blog simply to point out interesting ideas from others when my purpose is to inspire others to follow the ideas to their source for elaboration.  

So, with that rule in hand I would like to inspire those who read this blog to go read Jerry Weinberg's 'The Secrets of Consulting'.  Jerry has written many many books, and prior to meeting him at AYE this book would have been absolutely bottom of the priority list for me.  I looked to him as a source of inspiration on Systems Thinking, not consulting!  I've now read it and highlighted more insights than in any other book I've read in the last 2 years.  Despite being written long before Agile came into being, it is just a must-read for anyone who is either an Agile coach or some other form of change agent.

Following are my favourite dozen quotes (in no particular order), enjoy them and go to the source to read the anecdotes that lie behind them and discover your own favourites:

The First Law of Consulting: In spite of what your client may tell you, there's always a problem.

The Second Law of Consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it's always a people problem.

You'll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit.

People who can solve problems do lead better lives.  But people who can ignore problems, when they choose to, live the best lives.  If you can't do both, stay out of consulting.

Know-how pays much less than know-when.

The chances of solving a problem decline the closer you get to finding out who was the cause of the problem.

If you can't think of three things that might go wrong with your plans, then there's something wrong with your thinking.

Any time you're afraid to say no to your client, you lose your effectiveness as a consultant.

Sometimes when I'm not getting anywhere with the words, I listen to the music ... When words and music don't go together, they point to a missing element.

Your ideal form of influence is first to help people see their world more clearly, and then to let them decide what to do next.

It may look like a crisis, but it's only the end of an illusion

Your primary tool is merely being the person you are, so your most powerful method of helping other people is to help yourself.

PS: I'm unashamedly on a Weinberg kick right now.  The rule transformation technique is taken from "More Secrets of Consulting"

1 comment:

  1. Nice thoughts - good to get key ideas out even if they aren't your own. Even better if you can relate them to past experiences.