Companies who call for consultants call because they either need some knowledge that they do not possess themselves or they have problems which they cannot solve by themselves.

Those in the first group are likely to need advice on how to improve their supply chain, penetrate a certain market or computerize a certain process. They need specific solutions to production or administrative problems.

The second group has totally different types of needs. For example, they may need to solve a succession problem, which is usually a styles and values conflict situation involving the founder of an organization. Perhaps a company in this group needs to change the bureaucratic culture of their organization or they need help to merge the cultures of several companies recently acquired.

Both services call for expertise, but the type of expertise required is different.

The first group needs a consultant, a service provider charged with meeting the needs of the client organization and delivering a specific, identified solution. They are given an assignment. Their role is to satisfy the client and deliver exactly what was paid for. Their expertise lies in knowing the field they are consulting in better than their client and knowing how to make first-rate presentations.

The second group needs an organizational therapist who is trained very differently than a consultant and works in a totally different way when they serve the organization.

Let us analyze how different they should be.

Consultants have clients. The client is the boss. The client defines what they want the consultant to do. The consultant fulfills the client’s demands by making recommendations.

Therapists do not have clients. Therapists have patients. The patient describes a pain they are feeling but does not give the therapist assignments or make demands. The patient organization knows what pains it but does not know what to do about it. If it did, it would not need a therapist.

The therapist is trained to analyze the company in its totality. They should know how to approach the problems and in what sequence.

The patient organization might resent the problems the therapist chooses to treat. The organization might want to control what the therapist does, just like it does in the case of its consultants.

This is not acceptable.

The organization should explain what pains it, and the therapist should give an estimate of how long it will take to deal with the issues and what the fees will be to address the problems.

The patient organization cannot and should not tell the therapist what to do. The patient organization has the authority to hire or not hire the therapist, to accept or reject the therapist’s time and fee estimates—but that is it. From there on, the therapist sets the tone for what to do and how to do it until the problem is solved. The patient might not comply with the prescriptions the therapist provides. If this lack of compliance, this failure to complete assignments, is repetitive and chronic, it is time for the therapist to resign or for the patient to fire the therapist.

The therapist should drive the program, They should resolve the pain in a way the patient could not by himself. The therapist drives the process. With consultants, it is the other way around.

The role of consultant and therapist are very different.

The consultant deals with a functional problem. They are a doctor. They give their client a prescription.
The therapist does not advise. They should not. The therapist should provide the patient organization with the tools and processes to help the organization solve its own problems.

Consultants talk with exclamation marks. They need to know how to make compelling presentations. They teach. They judge. They make recommendations, but the tools they use to make the organization follow up on the prescriptions are weak. At most, consultants can cause those resisting the solution provided to be replaced by a new, more willing group of executives.

Instead of exclamation marks, therapists use question marks to lead their patients to their own solutions. Therapists should not claim to know more than the patient organization. Therapists know which questions to ask and in what sequence so that the patient organization will realize on its own what to do, when to do it and, then they can do it.

Adizes is not a consulting group. We treat dysfunctional organizations, those that have chronic problems which they cannot solve by themselves. At Adizes, we are organizational therapists.

Just thinking,

Ichak Kalderon Adizes