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09 January 2009



The consultant/contractor role is fun because you get to waltz in, identify where the lines in the sand are, play stupid and sit down directly atop the lines, and continue to play stupid while you listen to everybody's story.

That is sorta akin to climbing atop the animal, hollerin "so which way are we going?" and invoicing. e.g. it helps one side win a momentary skirmish. But at the end of the day the contractor wanders off happy and the (somebody else's) problems persist.

Jim Benson



Consultants generally are hired for one (or more) of three reasons:

1. To be a permission giver
2. To be an ass kicker
3. To be a scapegoat

Hopefully when you leave, the lines in the sand are fuzzier or, conversely, so clear now that they can no longer ignore them.

Hopefully, after exposure, improvement actions are unavoidable.

... hopefully.

Bill Tozier

It strikes me that here:

Many companies, through years of policies, procedures and power moves, are hopelessly mired in Pushmi Pullyu architectures. We see policies:

* forbidding inter-group communication.
* making it difficult for staff to transfer within the company.
* overly restricting decision making to managers that centralize power.
* creating highly regimented rules around information dissemination.

you're describing a typical modern American university's graduate education system.

Jim Benson


Yes! Indeed, I could be describing almost any organization from religion to business to government to education to families.

When we find reasons to hide information from each other and then come up with formal statutes to enforce that information inequity - things break down.


When people ask me how I achieved my work successes, the first thing I tell them is "I kept a consultant mentality, even though I am a salaried employee" It is important to be willing to take a risk, think outside the box and challenge the existing structure. Only by working from within can we make constructive change. The alternative will be tearing down the whole structure ( or having it collapse) and starting over again.


Brilliant use of the Pushmi Pullyu story and image. Anyone who has done time in corporate America has seen this architecture firsthand.

Subversion is a great way to talk about the process of creative destruction. The best leaders are those confident enough to replace ineffective structures with new and advantageous ways of working together. The great challenge is that so many leaders mastered those ineffective structures in order to achieve their powerful posts, and now see themselves as dependent on the very structures and modes that are rotting their organizations from within.

Leaders who can see beyond the short term are needed here, and despite being in short supply they are out there.

Jim Benson


Great comments, thank you.

Leaders are a huge part of this. Internal change requires, at some point, leadership buy-in.

What's funny is, I've talked to a lot of managers who know what needs to be done long-term, but they are hamstrung by short-term metrics.

Their measured success in the organization is often contingent on these short term measures and not measures that can help build a company for the future.

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