The readings in Block and Schein in the last few weeks seem to give new meaning to the concept of “face value”. In Process Consultation Revisited: Building the Helping Relationship, Schein encourages us to look beyond the surface of what we see and hear from our clients, pointing out that, “The most important thing to understand in any relationship is what goes on inside the head, especially one’s own head” (p. 86). I really hadn’t given too must thought to any preconceptions I might have regarding our consulting project but I must admit that once I took the time to do a little self-reflection, I found a few personal biases which I had previously overlooked. That was only one of a several revelations which have come in the last few weeks.
Half way through Schein’s material in Chapters 5 and 6, I was sure that I was reading a required text for a psychology class, rather than a consulting class. Schein presents the “ORJI” (Observation, Reaction, Judgment and Intervention) Cycle to demonstrate how consultants can better manage the data with which they are presented in their various interactions with their clients. In carefully considering each component of the cycle, one may avoid the traps of making attributions and prejudgments which contribute to communication breakdowns. I was struck with how well I could envision the cycle playing out in both my personal and professional life on a daily basis.
As our team approached the data collection phase, I have to admit that my idea of “data analysis” was geared more toward spending time pouring over spreadsheets of information, demographics, etc. However, both Block and Schein emphasize that interactions with your client can provide some of the most valid data which you encounter in the discovery phase.
“If you want to understand the client’s management style, you simply have to observe how you are treated.” . . . Your observations and experience about the client are valid data.” (Block, 2011, p. 214)
With regard to the application of the “ORJI” Cycle to process consultation, Schein states:
“Not only do consultants have to become aware of this dynamic within their own minds, but they must help clients understand how these processes may have led them to inappropriate behavior and how to think; more realistically about the relationship of perception and thought to feelings and behavior.” (p. 92)
Finally, Schein’s drives home the point of conferring value to each individual’s face with these words:
“The ultimate reason for face work is that unless we can reassure one another daily that our social selves will be acceptable, life becomes too unpredictable and dangerous, and society falls apart. The very essence of society is the implicit contract we have with each other to sustain the social selves as best we can. In this sense persons are “sacred objects”, and the deliberate destruction of someone’s face is equivalent to social murder. If I do that to you, I am licensing you and others to do the same thing to me, and that makes any form of society impossible.” (pp. 111 – 112)
To be honest, it came as somewhat of a surprise to realize that an important part of the “data” I would be using in the discovery phase would be based upon my interactions with the client and that this data could be impacted by my awareness of personal biases, my ability to identify misconceptions and situational expectations and ultimately by my ability to navigate through the data collection process in a manner which leaves my client feeling appropriately respected and valued. This all seems an important revelation to make at this point in the “process”.