READING THREE: Foucault, Michel (2001) Fearless Speech, Semiotext (e) (Foreign Agents)
1.0 THE POSITION OF A CONSULTANT VIS-AVIS ORGANIZATION
The text provides that consultation is driven by diagnostic traits that help to identify deficiencies in an organizational system (Foucault, 2001:24) and create independence of organization (learn to take care of itself) by sharpening employee’s analytical and diagnostic skills which implies, consultation contributes into transfer of knowledge from consultancy to the organization which is used to manage future similar challenges (Foucault, 2001:100) which satisfies philosophical parrahesia and realizing independence (epimeleia heautou). Consultancy is important is equipping employees with capacity to solve problems on their own which makes an organizational system self sufficient and independent. The text shows that although consultant helps an organization to solve its own problems, it makes employees to come up with solutions to identified problems during intervention hence making employees to determine intervention measures that can be used to bring about difference (Foucault, 2001:98-99).
The text illustrates that consultancy is based on helping (Foucault, 2001:98) by taking the role of a care giver. This implies, consultants are professional helpers who have necessary skills to identify deficiencies in performance of the organization and propose solutions towards future direction of the organization. Based on the context of consultancy as professional help, it implies the logical corollary is that the organization is at the position of seeking consultancy help due to organizations incapability to solve problems that affects its productivity and performance. Thus a consultant plays the role of basanos of other people’s lives (Foucault, 2001:99). As a result of an organization being positioned to seek consultancy help, the organization is put at a lower status position vis-à-vis the consultant.
Thus, consultant position is superior (Foucault, 2001:100). The consultant, upon entry into the organization may seek to know the measures that the organization has taken in order to try to solve the problem (Foucault, 2001:101). Due to inferiority position of organization vis-à-vis consultant, organization may risk being viewed as having incapability to address its problems competently which implies consultancy in most cases takes confrontational approach (Foucault, 2001:102). The text shows the consultant role through confrontation approach is to put forward recommendations on mechanism that the organization could adopt in order to manage current problems and be prepared to handle future related challenges. The text shows that the statements that are used by the consultant are directive. Thus, the statements are confrontational which make organization feel as if it has been conducting its processes and operations in a poor manner. The perspectives of the directiveness of the statement that are used by the consultant are used to reinforce the status between the consultant and the organization.
The consultant should intervene by asking question by using the principle of circularity, going round in circles (Foucault, 2001:24). These questions (figure 1) are asked in order to stimulate employee interaction which impart about the organization, not to the consultant but to the employees (Foucault, 2001:25) “by speaking their minds freely”. This helps to reveal points of origination performance failures hence providing opportunities that the consultant can use in developing framework for intervention. Through the questions and answers provided, the consultant understands the organizational culture, power distance existing and how it affects communication channels in the organization, the hierarchical systems in the organization, reporting procedures and leadership styles in place, mode of employee compensation and any efforts towards innovation processes. This puts employees at the same level vis-à-vis the issues that the consultant’s intervention is being sought for by the organization. The element of consultancy introduces an element where sense of employee empowerment is realized and mutual responsibility is visualized. This doesn’t imply, during lifecycle of consultancy, the organization becomes more democratic or non-hierarchical (Foucault, 2001:24-25)1.1 Figure 1: questions that a consultant seeks to develop intervention framework
The writer assumes the organization is in a position to seek help of a consultant (Foucault, 2001:24). Thus, consultancy plays a great role in identification of problems that organization faces. Consultancy benefits organization if the organization is in a position to provide its performance and history of business operations that contributes to the current performance index that requires intervention of consultancy services (Foucault, 2001:24, 92). Consultancy gains entry into an organization when the organization has a lower status vis-à-vis the consultancy. The role of the consultant is to assess all points or organizational interaction and be involved in the interaction process which puts consultant position vis-à-vis organizational elements in the same position (Foucault, 2001:95-97). The writer affirms the activity of engaging organization in consultation is a form of intervention. This is because the consultant will enter the organization with objective interests of affirmation and neutrality by seeking answers to problems that affects organizational performance which, in its own right, qualifies as intervention (figure 2).1.2 Figure 2: consultancy identification of the problem
Consultancy is not a straight forward activity (Foucault, 2001:97). This is because it seeks to identify SWOT analysis of the organization. The consultancy process and lifecycle involves conducting a case study on the organization in order to identify limiting factors to organizational productivity and efficiencies. The process of consultancy involves evaluating suitable methodology for carrying out studies on the organization, identification of vertical and horizontal relationships and how they affect performance. The consultancy process involves identifying attributes weaknesses of the organizational structure, current business model of the organization and mechanisms through which the model of business is run and managed. The process involves consultant’s effort in identifying organizational climate, organizational structure and performance (Foucault, 2001:97-98). The process of consultancy is affected by standards of ethics that are adopted.
There are complications that arise in consultancy. This depends on how far a consultant moves in the process of consultation and how fast the consultant moves along the line of intervention from exploratory inquiries to implementation of confrontational approaches (Foucault, 2001:103). This is because, according to the text, many consultants attach the process of consultation from the confrontational angle either because the top management of the organization expects confrontational approach to be implemented fast or the consultant has inexperience in initial contact point for consultancy. The organization may expect the consultant to be know-it-all, hence the organizational increased tendencies to hand-off any tasks that may not require intervention of a consultant.
Other complications in the process of consultancy arise where organizational problems are caused by organizational use of Total Quality Management (TQM) when TQM is not suitable model for measuring quality measurements. TQM is a statistical process control principle and tool and is adopted when the organization has satisfactorily determined the quality aspect that it wants to improve and so that the role of consultant would be to provide direction in which the organization can achieve the targeted quality performance (Foucault, 2001:105, 12). The organization might have adopted TQM to empower employees towards taking steps towards quality improvement. TQM, in terms of consultancy represents an organization-wide intervention approach which is delivered through collecting data and analyzing collected data on the quality of products. Due to incompatibility of TQM with some organizations like manufacturing, the outcomes of implementation of TQM in a manufacturing setting could direct employee effort into wrong strategic direction which would result into lack of achieving strategic objectives. In some instances, use of TQM in consultancy process intervention creates employees resistance which might distort the framework for the intervention procedures.
The consultancy process might result into restructuring of the organization structure (Foucault, 2001:19); 101). The change of organizational structure corresponds to changing employee behavior and strategic objectives and employee workgroups. The strategic step for organizational restructuring in consultancy process might not provide basis for Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) following implementation of TQM. There is likelihood that the employees, after change of organization, may continue to act in their own successful operative interests which may suffocate consultancy process. This arises due to incompetence of the consultant to account and incorporate all factors that affect organization and how the intervention fits into the organizational strategic objective.
Other complications in consultancy arise from intangibility of qualities of a consultant in that the consultant is required to have string sense of ethics (Foucault, 2001:101). This is because the consultant is informed of some of organizational deficiencies to performance in confidence. Thus, the consultant has to maintain highest level of ethical standards or communicate his standards of ethics and practice to the organization before accepting the consulting tasks. The consultant has to utilize intangible qualities like capability to demonstrate flexibility element in being able to view organizational problems in relations to organizational performance.
Quantitative aspects may contribute into complications of consultancy where the organization doesn’t recognize returns on investment following hiring of consultant due to short term analytical perspectives. The outcomes of consultancy on organizational development and growth are long term. Thus, the consultant has to build credibility by being able to see organizational identified problem in multiple dimensions which makes it possible for the organization to adopt the cost effective solution based on possible set of highlighted solution dimensions (Foucault, 2001:101-103).
The writer considers consultancy is economically viable to the organization if the consultancy is in a position to be of help to the organization, which implies the organization doesn’t get exposed to loss of revenue or lack of sustainability of the current problem (Foucault, 2001:98-100). The writer argues that a consultant is of help to organization if the consultant keeps intervention measures for organizational problems at the exploratory and diagnostic level.
The position of the consultant is dictated by the category of consultation namely case based consultation or relationship based consultation which also defines the intervention approach that the consultant uses (table 1) (Foucault, 2001:100) subject to use of Lydia, Phrygian, Ionian or Dorian.1.3 Table 1: intervention methods for a consultant
Category of intervention
Active, interested listening
Forcing historical reconstruction
Forcing process emphasis
Diagnostic questions and probes
Process management and agenda setting
Content suggestion and recommendations
Source: adapted from E.H. Schein (1987) process consultation: lessons for managers and consultants (Vol II), Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley
The consultant is an outsider by virtue of not being an employee or in permanent payroll of the organization which could imply consultant is entitled to benefits like organizational pension scheme. In terms of functionality, the consultant is an insider, because the consultant has to interact with the employees in order to identify organizational performance deficiencies (figure 1 and 2). As an insider, the consultant takes the position of organizational employee referral service personnel where the consultant takes a neutral position which makes the consultant not to impose his own outcomes for intervention on the organizational system (Foucault, 2001:12-15). This means, the consultant uses the organizational internal climate and language and political systems to identify organizational performance deficiencies in their natural settings.
The most effective consultant is an outsider as opposed to internally appointed consultant to conduct ongoing positional performance of the organization through auditing of process efficiencies and orientation of processes to strategic objectives. As an outsider, the consultant takes a neutral position which not only seeks to identify people management processes but also towards ideas and their application in the organizational development (Foucault, 2001:101-104). As an outsider, the consultant is able to remain outside the competing points of view that influence organization performance hence position the consultant to remain neutral about specific content which makes it possible for the consultant to explore and implement exploratory methodology to identify deficiencies in performance which is vital in understanding relationships in the organization domain. By adopting neutral stance, the consultant is able to avoid imposing his own preferred intervention at expense of current model of performance that the organization pursues like Balanced ScoreCard (BSC) or European Foundation Quality Excellence (EFQM) model for business excellence or TQM. This ensures the consultant is not central to day-to-day running of organizational operations which might affect isostatic balance and affect symmetry of organizational relationships.
The consultant should relate with organization by taking a complementary position that levels position of consultant vis-à-vis the organization. However the consultant should avoid mirror effect by entering the organizational system and avoiding common pitfalls that result into difficulties in intervention implementation (Foucault, 2001:100). For instance, if the organizational system demonstrates paralysis in decision making, by exhibiting insider-trait, the consultant could suffer challenges of communication paralysis. Thus, the consultant’s relationship with the organization should be reciprocative, such that if the mandate of the organization is based on ‘rescue’ from current underperformance, the organization gives support to consultant in order to implement organizational rescue strategies (Foucault, 2001:15).
The primary task of a consultant is to facilitate meetings in the organization with aim of understanding ethical implication of employee behavior which can help in identifying employee relationships and how it could be used to form basis for providing solution to the organizational problem. The consultant should utilize active listening as he makes the first contact with the organization in order to collect vital information that characterizes the current organizational performance. This is vital in determining the status of the communication system in the organization (Foucault, 2001:92-5). Thus, the consultant develops framework that fits into the organizational structure by identifying and making evaluation and assessment on its strengths and weaknesses. This gains success the consultant utilizes the element of fit to ensure his consultancy skills and personalities are streamlined to meet the success attributes that the organization expects and demands. The consultant therefore is supposed to make observation on the organizational behavior and behavioral processes in order to make recommendations for managing the organizational problems. This means, the consultant has to utilize knowledge from behavioral science, industrial relations and human resource management in order to develop framework for organizational change and policies that the organization should adopt in order to lead change.
The consultant develops tasks that are specific for specific work groups in the organization (table 1). Thus, the consultant is responsible for developing management processes and different agenda settings and their timescales for implementation. Thus, the consultant provides suggestions on mechanism through which different factors that affect agenda setting could be improved. For instance, if the organization might not be in a position to manage time with respect to work groups, then the consultant can be able to increase number of agenda items by setting times for addressing particular agenda items (Foucault, 2001:91-92).
The consultation is responsible for providing feedback on potentially confrontational interventions which determine organizational work group performance efficiencies. The consultant learns organizational work group performances through sittings in meetings, observing how work groups deliver their functions, and participates in discussion and identifying weaknesses in the work group functions in order to identify deficient areas that need reconstruction (Foucault, 2001:92). This helps to identify if only a section of employees contribute in seeking solution to organization problems. The consultant makes participant observation by making observation on how the employees communicate in their work environments to determine factors that contribute into the low work performances or factors that reduce productivity of work groups. This implies, when a consultant makes suggestions to the improvement of the organization, the consultant improves effectiveness of the organization processes (Foucault, 2001:96).
The consultant participates in strategic planning after identifying the approach for managing the organizational problem which forms mechanism and procedures for the organizational intervention process (Foucault, 2001:96-97). The consultant together with employees develops and formulates the way forward towards organizational intervention and milestones that need to be achieved subject to defined timelines. Thus, the implemented organization intervention is an outcome of consultant –employee discussion, since employees are in a position to determine what could help to turn around the organization and what may fail despite capital inputs and organizational support. The consultant facilitates strategic planning and setting of strategic goals which involve planning of the human resource, employee compensation rates, strategies for delivering psychological capital hence use of motivational aspects to improve and encourage employees to work hard and influences key organizational decisions like mechanisms and processes for acquisition. Thus, the consultant plays a lead role in changing organizational strategies goals, recruiting practices and guiding the organization to acquire competitive companies for market share (Foucault, 2001:96). The consultant plays role in restructuring organizational relationships, both vertical and horizontal and streamlining communication channels. This implies, consultants facilitate in transforming leadership of an organization from transactional leadership into transformational or matrix leadership depending on the threats and weaknesses that play a leading role towards organizational underperformance that are identified by the consultant during exploratory phase of the consultancy lifecycle.
Consultants conduct surveys and collect data on opinions of employees concerning problems that affect the organization (Foucault, 2001:95). In so doing, the consultants use skills in research methodology and data analysis in order to collect appropriate data by using either non-probability or probability sampling to ensure data collected achieves reliability and validity aspect. The data that is collected is structured such that it represents opinions from different departments and systems of the organization. After analysis of the empirical data, the consultant summarizes the data which is used to determine future direction of the organizational strategic planning. Then the consultant returns the analyzed data to the employees who help to form the framework that defines new restructuring and corresponding organizational behavior that conforms to the solution proposed by the analyzed outcomes of survey (Foucault, 2001:95-96). It is responsibility of the consultant to write a report on the outcomes and help organizational top management in interpretation of the results.
By using the outcomes of empirical analysis, the consultant can use the results to compare and benchmark organizational performance in relation to other organization in the same geographical location or other organizations dealing in the same product or service categories and their performance index in order to determine the positioning of the organization with respect to others (Foucault, 2001:94-98). Depending on the competence of the consultant, the consultant ought to structure the survey instruments and ethnographic methodology so that issues that are important to employee productivity are evaluated, assessed and analyzed in the light of their influence to productivity.
In my opinion, the discussion helped to form foundation on how process of consultancy should be structured as well as intervention mechanisms that consultancy could adopt to bring about efficiencies and effectiveness of organizational strategic objectives. The discussion was instrumental in highlighting the principles that consultants should follow in order to bring about interventions that have lasting effects on organizational productivity.
The discussion helped to provide foundations that a consultant and consultancy should adopt in interventions. For instance, after entry into organizational setting, the consultant should define relational strategy after conducting exploratory intervention by implementing a “one-up” complementarities position subject to being perceived by employees and management as a professional helper who has been hired to provide viable solution to challenges affecting organizational performance or adopt a one-down approach where the consultant seeks information from the employees such that, in developing the solution and intervention framework, consultant is helpless without the employees input which has capability of making organization experience confusing complementarity vis-à-vis consultant position. Thus consultants and consultancy ought to enter into organizational system with a degree of flexibility.
In my views, consultancy is important in helping organizations operation to be aligned to the organizational strategic objectives. Consultancy facilitates in identification of problems and challenges that affect productivity, effectiveness and efficiencies of organizational strategic planning and aligns the organization towards Continuous Quality Improvement.
Foucault, Michel (2001) Fearless Speech, Semiotext (e) (Foreign Agents)