Get the Little Things Right


You must be good at the little things to be an effective consultant or change agent. Any good cook knows that. And you have to take the time. Scratch made puff pastry is a wondrous thing, not at all like the inert pre-frozen slabs available for sale. There are a lot of little steps in the production and it cannot be rushed. Depending on the day, the ambient temperature, the moisture in the air, and the heat of your hands, that dough will be different every time. You need the touch to know what is needed, when to move along, when to invest in another fold, roll and rise.


Working with organizations has more than passing similarity. The active ingredients, the people and the environment, need to be well understood. Possible preferred futures must be properly investigated, empirically justified choices laid out then weighed and finally, decisions made at macro-policy levels. Once that larger direction is clear, a myriad of small steps is needed to set up and bring about organizational change that is both sufficiently significant to optimize new goal achievement and sustainable into the future. You need to know what you are doing every step of the way. Winging it will not result in decent croissants nor effective organizational change.


Effort and time will be required to get components interacting consistently along preferred directions. Think deeply about who to solicit for committee work, how to structure initial trials, where to ask for feedback. Some, like oil and water, will need vigorous whisking to move beyond their usual individual behaviours. Others will come together supportively like butter and flour. Still others will surprise you with a rapid, radical change like a drop of water into hot melted sugar.


The baker, and the change agent, must have a specific plan of intention developed with intel from the individual situation. They then must attend closely to what is going each step of the way, all the little nuances and interactions, and be willing to adjust as required. Each of these stages has learnable components, but there is no substitute for deep experience.


Just as there are a multitude of cookbooks, there are a range of self-titled designations for consultants and well-advertised, pre-packaged plans for strategic change. Just add water; or just trust them with your organization. In the real world however, knowing when to depart from the book or the company product line is critical for a consultant to be effective for you and your organization as opposed to just effective in selling their company product. Real creativity born of deep knowledge will be required day-to-day, situation-to-situation; it is not an embellishment reserved for the final plating or the final report.


So, who do you have guiding your organizational improvement project? Are you content with the pre-packaged products or do you and your people deserve a real chef?

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