Predicting the Future

January 8, 2010

My habitual pattern is to drop my car keys on the kitchen counter.  That means it’s a pretty good prediction most days that the kitchen counter is where my car keys will be.

But that’s not true every day.

What if I arrived home last night really really really needing to pee?  The kitchen counter might not have been my first stop.  (Hopefully not, really.)

If I’m not paying attention at that point, those keys might be harder to find today.  But just the thought, “I better put these keys in the kitchen,” (followed by doing so) would restore the pattern, making today’s prediction of keys on counter a pretty darn accurate one.

Alternately, I might arrive home, keys in hand, enter the kitchen and think, “I’m tired of having things strewn on the counter – I need a new system.”  So, I find a basket or a hook or suddenly the potted plant by the door looks like just the right home for them.  Now the prediction of keys on the counter becomes a pretty bad prediction.

Knowing the future relies on these three things:  seeing the pattern that has come before, assessing the degree to which that pattern is in place in the present, and realizing how human awareness is operating in relationship to this pattern – either deliberately restoring a pattern that’s been disrupted, or intentionally instigating a change in pattern.

The future is easy to predict if it’s easy to see the pattern in the past, not much has changed in the present, and there’s little human awareness affecting how this pattern will move forward in the future.  But shift any of those and the future just grows in its mystery.

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How to Hire a Consultant

January 4, 2010

Hiring a consultant is a big decision and a significant commitment of organizational resources – of course, you want to make the most of it!  Here are a few tips for putting that time and money to good use.

  1. Say yes to the goals at the beginning of the project. Hiring a consultant means you as an organization have already committed to doing something new.  Too often, organizations wait until the end product – the report, the final presentation, the recommendations – as if that is the decision-making moment.  In fact, the decision was made at the beginning when the resources were committed.
  2. Work with the consultant as an ally and collaborator. No consultant can “do something” or “fix something” for an organization.  A consultant brings in perspective, resources and expertise, but only the organization can put them to use.  At every step the organization needs to be asking “what does this means for us?” and “how can we put this to use?”
  3. Invest at least as much organizational time and consideration as you ask the consultant to invest. A good consultant provides information, strategies and possibilities designed to catalyze change in your organization – but only the organization can enact that change.  Read everything produced by the consultant, go over it with a fine tooth comb, ask questions to be sure you understand all the data. Then use those materials to initiate conversations and actions within the organization.
  4. Create the circumstances for a new kind of conversation. How can your organization open up to the new possibilities presented by your consultant?  It won’t happen by continuing on in the familiar day-to-day routines.  Plan a retreat, empower a committee, set aside special time on an on-going basis in the regular meeting schedule.  Your day-to-day routines are set up to support the status quo.  You need a different routine to support change.

Hiring a consultant can be an exciting moment for your organization – or an exercise in frustration.  Be a full participant in the change you are seeking. The frustrations will be fewer, and the excitement will be palpable.


Mapping the Unknown

December 22, 2009

Our work focuses on the space between what is currently true and what is desired.  Two key challenges emerge.  1) These two points are knowable,  but they are often not clearly defined or understood.  2) The space between them is unknowable:  if it were possible to simply plan a known route across this space, it would already be done.

This is not the typical viewpoint of our clients.  Most assume they are clear about their current and intended realities, and refer to  some failing as an explanation of why they have not traversed the territory in between – laziness, the poor performance of employees, just not trying hard enough, and the like.  The transformative aspect of our work together lies in stepping outside doubt and blame and into the adventure of mapping the unknown.

To meet the first challenge (mapping what is unknown amidst the knowable) requires a clear assessment of current resources and challenges and the courage to put this assessment to work.  Where are current resources being squandered?  How are challenges or weaknesses being ignored or dealt with ineffectually?

For example, an alternative health practitioner was dismayed at the lack of response to her advertising efforts. Together, we identified a key barrier in her advertising: the assumption that her audience already understood the problems for which she was offering a solution.  Learning to educate through her outreach efforts was a crucial component to her success.

A non-profit client was frustrated by its lack of growth in membership and revenue.  This current reality made sense however, as the organization realized that both staffing and volunteer labor were being utilized at maximum capacity, thus creating a necessary and understandable limit on growth.

Once the key problem has been identified most clients think that all that remains is to apply the solution.  What is lost in this assumption is an awareness of the chaotic nature of change.  The identified solution is not simply a new way to get to a destination already attained.

Rather, it is a catalyst into territory never before explored.  This can be the most interesting, satisfying and creative aspect of the process, activating what is centrally true and valuable in the current system.

Our health practitioner realized her own interest and desire to be a teacher, to bring all that she had learned to those who would benefit from this knowledge.  The non-profit organization realized the significance of current staff and volunteer efforts, and took new efforts to invest in the coordination and recognition of these resources – thus investing in  the heart and strength of the organization itself.

Through mapping the unknown in the current reality and creating a map into the unknown territory of movement forward, a third map is created:  a map of what is desired.  While the destination was in some ways known from the start, the true nature of that destination reveals itself only as it is achieved.  In both cases, they discovered the path by walking it.

As the health practitioner created her maps, she became an author and speaker devoted to promoting the ability of individuals to heal themselves.  As the non-profit engaged in its journey, it became a strong community of people working together to make a difference.  In both cases, this is who and what these clients were from the start.  The difference was in their ability to strongly actualize this gift in their world.

Maps abound detailing how to get from one place to another – and every one of them describes what is currently known.  To actualize the potential of who and what we are, we must map the unknown.  What a fabulous journey that can be.