Monday, October 27, 2014

Learning to act right (44)… consulting conception or deception – 2 or 3 bombs going off
Torrey Orton
Oct 27, 2014

In his mind the performance target is 2 or 3 bombs going off on the way to the solution.

In the assignment where “I am making it up as I’m going” I find myself sort of promising something I can’t really promise. That is, my interventions claim to do something with the agreed problem(s) I’ve been hired to engage, but the unfolding nature of the circumstances, their complexity and fluidity, often compromise the conditions and assumptions of intervention design which were operating at the moments of my last promise.

When I undertook the assignment or near the beginning when I had a first grasp of it, I suggested that often such situations can only be moved by a few bombs going off. Failing the bombs, the participants can sustain their existing muddling through strategies, motivated by a mutually sustained conviction that anything else than the muddle will be an unrecoverable disaster. The bombs would be wholly typical on reflection, yet unpredictable. They would just be exaggerated versions of the existing disturbances which frame much of everyday interactions in the place.

The first bomb happened near the end of the first month of engagements and was loud and clear enough to be heard down the hall of the head office space. Neither participants nor others stakeholders (non-family employees) could doubt that something tumultuous had occurred. No one died from that and some air clearing had occurred. That bomb was engineered by one participant “dragging” another, reluctant, participant out of his office and into the meeting with the explicit rationale that everyone else needed him involved for progress to be made. She drew on her powers of motherhood for her successful intervention.

And so it was a few weeks ago (4 months later) that another client threw a hissy around the type of issue they all could have predicted, but for failure to pay attention they did not notice they were invoking his rage again, and so they were thrown into blame attribution mode conducted over some days in the murky waters of indirect dealing with the rage in question. And all of which sustained the entire dynamic with increased energy. Non family stakeholders - trusted advisors and executives – flushed my phone lines with wondrous queries and hopes someone had the situation under control…and hoping that my work with the hissy one had not prompted the perceived outrage. The situation is still not under control. Like all previous bombs before and since my time on the job it remains a vivid memory, perhaps this time to be turned into leverage for a change of habit(s)?

The concept of “bombs” is self-explanatory, except in the clinical interventions practice where expectations are high that previously long colluded undiscussables implicitly in play will be engaged without imagined terrors overwhelming everyone. A “bomb” in this sense is a high energy event which typifies the secrets and can no longer be avoided. Sometimes 2 or 3 are necessary. We have evidence in public life where “bombs” in this sense can be contained within the collusive secrets process (GFC, WMD in Iraq…) which is also evidence that the containment is an instrument of the denial, of the making undiscussable of such matters.

That bombs were in my clients’ expectation sets makes it somewhat more easy to bear them when they arrive because they can be seen as necessary markers of change. No bombs; no change. Just a bit unpredictable for a consulting assignment.

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