For the last four weeks, I have been working as a management consultant facilitating a strategic plan for a non-profit film and media arts organization in Houston, TX. While I engaged in strategic planning with clients as a graduate student, this is my first gig fresh on the market.
I have been interested in figuring out what the role of a “consultant” is. Many other organizations here are also in strategic planning, where they bring in an expert from a far off place and who only comes in every couple of weeks for short periods of time. I tend to get this feeling that consultants are cold and calculating. We have tools like surveys and techniques like SWOT analyses that are foreign and full of management jargon that few understand. Most people I spoke with do not believe strategic planning is useful at all and that they do it “just because.”
And then I started thinking. The consultant should be like a massage therapist.
In other words, you need to work the organization like a body. You enter the room and set a scene that puts everybody at ease. The body is naked under a blanket before you, and by that I mean you have their 990s and full access to their budgets, files, databases, etc. Your one-on-one interviews and first retreats are your first touches that send a message: “I am here; Everything will be okay.” Then, you identify the knots via surveys, semi-structured interviews, SWOT analyses and other techniques.
You are now ready to work the body. Depending on how tense the organization is, you may need to start light, or, if the situation is dire, you might need to work deep in the tissue. There might be scars to work around. Some things may need to be isolated using trigger point techniques. You may need to use a variety of techniques. Your humor and coffee purchases are aroma therapy. Your mantras are the background music. Your voice is soothing.
By the end, circulation of ideas or of finances is restored; the body feels better and ready to work again; and your job as a consultant ala massage therapist is complete until the next session.
Perhaps it sounds silly and a little unprofessional (in the management jargon I think they call it hippie bullshit), but, while some things require the clinical techniques of a surgeon, I’d say the majority of problems require some good old fashioned massage therapy. After all, the plans are paper problems. Realizing those plans are people problems.
So set your management intention bitches! Ommmmmmmmmm….