William Bergquist and Agnes Mura
We will move a bit deeper into the challenging fourth model of consultation that we described in our previous essay. This is a model of consultation that requires an openness to all options for one’s client to consider—including the option not to change. In setting the stage for this consideration of both change and stabilization, we will begin with a brief case study. Jill was furious about the state of the community service agency she directs. She had just fired her third office manager in the last eight months. The budgeting and personnel problems in this agency never seem to go away. Jill lets the world know of her discontent:
We live from day to day in this agency, hoping out of one frying pan into another! I don’t want to live this way anymore and have taken decisive action to avoid staying with a bad decision once we know things aren’t going to work out. I have asked for Gerald’s [the business manager’s] resignation.
Jill is convinced that problems are solved by bold decision-making regarding change. Unfortunately, some of her problems may relate to the processes and rates of change itself. Frequently, change itself is a major problem facing contemporary organizations.
Change Itself Can Be a Problem
Contemporary organizations are constantly exposed to changing conditions in the various settings they encounter. The needs of consumers shift in unanticipated ways. The costs, constraints or quality controls of a supplier will vary. The financial support that is available from Wall Street, venture capitalists or even from wealthy trustees or local philanthropic organizations seems never to be dependable. Even within an organization, working environments change as a function of new union-management agreements, shifting worker needs and values, new technologies and modifications in existing federal, state and local policies and regulations.