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Abstract

Process consultation as conceived and reformulated several times by Edgar Schein constitutes a seminal contribution to the process of organization development in general and to the definition of the helping role of the consultant in particular. Under the pressure of a pragmatic turn in organizational change work, the practice of process consultation was fading away during the eighties and nineties. In some particular training and organizational consulting contexts nevertheless, the foundational principles and practices of process consultation are experienced to be more relevant than ever before. A relational constructionist theoretical lens, an emphasis on joint consultant—client practices, and a proper contextual embedding constitute a relational practice perspective that embodies in a new form and language those foundational ideas.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1783469
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
1
Running head: PROCESS CONSULTATION REVISITED
Process consultation revisited: Taking a ‘relational practice’ perspective
Frank Lambrechts
1
, Styn Grieten
2
, René Bouwen
3
, & Felix Corthouts
4
1
Assistant Professor, Applied Economics, KIZOK Research Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Hasselt
University, Agoralaan 1, 3590 Diepenbeek (Belgium). Phone: +32(0)11 26 86 93, fax: +32(0)11 26 86 99, e-mail:
frank.lambrechts@uhasselt.be
.
2
Assistant Professor, Applied Economics, Center for Corporate Sustainability, HUBrussel, Stormstraat 2, 1000
Brussels (Belgium).
3
Full Professor Emeritus, Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, 3000
Leuven (Belgium).
4
Full Professor Emeritus, Applied Economics, Work and Organizational Psychology, Hasselt University, Agoralaan
1, 3590 Diepenbeek (Belgium).
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1783469
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
2
Process consultation revisited: Taking a ‘relational practice’ perspective
Abstract
“Process consultation” as conceived and reformulated several times by Edgar Schein constitutes
a seminal contribution to the process of organization development in general and to the definition
of the helping role of the consultant in particular. Under the pressure of a pragmatic turn in
organizational change work, the practice of process consultation was fading away during the
eighties and nineties. In some particular training and organizational consulting contexts
nevertheless the foundational principles and practices of process consultation are experienced to
be more relevant than ever before. A relational constructionist theoretical lens, an emphasis on
joint consultant-client practices and a proper contextual embedding, constitute ‘a relational
practice’ perspective that embodies in a new form and language those foundational ideas.
Keywords: process consultation, relational practice perspective, organization development,
relational constructionism, quality of relational practices, contextual embeddedness.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
3
Process consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective
This article acknowledges the pioneering contribution of Edgar Schein in the
development of the laboratory training methodology. Edgar Schein was indeed among the
founders of the ‘laboratory training’ learning method, later called T-group, together with
pioneers such as Kurt Lewin, Kenneth Benne, Leland Bradford, Warren Bennis, Ronald Lippitt,
and, also Chris Argyris (Marrow, 1969). Stimulating reflection on joint here-and-now group
experiences was considered as one of the core processes that made the T-group into an
innovative educational approach. In an autobiographical essay, Schein (1993a) describes his first
T-group experience as “an incredibly potent experience for me that forever changed my view of
the field” (p. 8). From that moment on till the present Schein has been focusing on how to build
helping relationships between consultant and client (system). This focus is clearly present in his
work on process consultation (Schein, 1969b, 1999a) and his more recent work on dialogue
(Schein, 1993b, 2003).
In his seminal work on social change processes Edgar Schein conceptualized the
unfreezing phase in the Lewin change cycle as the outcome of disconfirming experiences or lack
of confirming experiences among the actors involved. Throughout their interaction actors
confirm or disconfirm the balance in the triangle ‘self-image’ – ‘perception by others’ –
‘perception of the context’ (Schein, 1969a, 1999b, 2002). Interaction process reflection is
considered to be at the heart of the change process. Beyond the interpersonal and group level,
Edgar Schein extended this discovery into the ‘invention’ of organizational psychology as a
research and practice field. Indeed, Bernie Bass and Edgar Schein wrote the first two textbooks
with the title “Organizational Psychology” (Bass, 1965; Schein, 1965).
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
4
Making interventions that foster this process learning (e.g., Probst & Büchel, 1997) in
interactive contexts can be considered as the essence of what Edgar Schein called process
consultation, in training intervention as well as in mere management contexts. Edgar Schein
made the first formulation of process consultation in the first Addison Wesley series on
Organization Development (Schein, 1969b). He was co-editor with the late Richard Beckhard of
the OD series which has published over 30 volumes thus far. With the concept of process
consultation Schein tries to explain ‘what really works’ in intervention efforts during change
processes (in interaction, in groups, in organizations). And this ‘what works?’ can be
circumscribed as: being involved and engaging, observing, becoming aware and reflecting on the
ongoing interaction, relationships and experiential processes so that the self steering capacity and
ownership of the client (system) can be enhanced. Process consultation means working in the
present reality, in the ongoing interaction (Schein, 1987) and understanding “the ebb and flow of
that reality moment to moment, shifting roles as necessary” (Schein, 1999b, p. 70).
The concept of process consultation remained strongly linked with the contribution of
Schein (revisited edition in 1999) and faded away elsewhere. Developed during the sixties, when
memories about T-groups were still vivid, it hardly survived the new orientations in organization
development during the seventies and eighties, when the emphasis on problem solving, structural
and strategic approaches were considered as more important than the mere processual or micro-
approach. Process consultation was substituted during the nineties by eclectic coaching and
facilitating approaches from very diverse perspectives. The original process emphasis, originated
in the T-groups, got merely lost in the functional and instrumental approaches, demanded by the
business schools’ students and alumni. Indeed, today process consultation is predominantly
conceived as one type of OD intervention method (Cummings & Worley, 2005), or as a family
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
5
of OD interventions (French & Bell, 1998), alongside many others, that is especially suitable
when dealing with socio-emotional processes and problems in work groups and organizations
(e.g., dysfunctional conflict, deficient group processes, poor communication, ineffective
behaviors and norms). Defined this way, process consultation has become just one of the
intervention techniques or instruments in the OD consultant’s tool bag instead of a general
philosophy or action principle that underlies each intervention effort during change processes.
Although there is a lot of material available on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ process, the concept and
practice of ‘process consultation’ itself has always been and still is difficult to grasp. Schein
himself stresses this point in the preface of the revisited edition of process consultation (Schein,
1999a) contemplating that colleague advisors and managers still don’t understand the essence of
‘process consultation’: it is not a technique or a collection of interventions for working with
groups, it is not a model for non-directive counseling, and it is not an occupation or full-time job.
Process consultation is essentially about building a helping (client-consultant) relationship
through a continuous effort of “jointly deciphering what is going on” (Schein, 1999a, p. 6) in the
ongoing interaction, relationship and situation in order to make co-authored choices about how to
go on. In the concluding chapter of ‘Process Consultation Revisited’ Edgar Schein underlines the
importance of keeping a sharp eye on the helping nature of the relationship: “When all is said
and done, I measure my success in every contact by whether or not I feel the relationship has
been helpful and whether or not the client feels helped” (Schein, 1999a, p. 242-243).
Several reasons can be identified why process consultation is often misunderstood and
why it had difficulty to survive the various developments in OD thinking. Firstly, the concept of
process consultation is used in two different meanings by Schein (1987, 1999a). It refers to both
the continuous process of building a helping (client-consultant) relationship and to a specific
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
6
consultation role (doctor-patient model, expert model and process consultancy model) that is
enacted during the process, depending on the joint assessment of which role is most helpful at
present. Secondly, empirical research on process consultation is rather scarce (e.g., Kaplan,
1979; Cummings & Worley, 2005). And thirdly, although Schein is championing
clinical/qualitative approaches (1995) and is using a symbolic-interactionist approach (Schein,
1999a), there seems to have been a lack of vocabulary and conceptualization of the relational
processes that are at work. Maybe this lack of proper theorizing of what really works in ongoing
interactions for change, makes the survival and diffusion of process consultation hard. A
‘relational practice’ perspective on intervention and change processes can offer this kind of
theorizing and can help to catch the dynamics going on in process consultation. This perspective
is introduced in de second part of the article. Subsequently the concept of ‘relational practice’,
and its relationship to process consultation, is illustrated using an in-depth comparative case of a
change process in a consulting firm and a health care organization. We conclude by discussing
the added value of a ‘relational practice’ perspective by arguing how our findings go beyond and
actualize Schein’s work on process consultation.
Taking a ‘relational practice’ perspective
At the end of his book ‘Process Consultation Revisited’ (Schein, 1999a), Edgar Schein
wonders about his stubbornness about writing again and again about the value of process
consultation. Organizational consultants keep telling him that they have to make formal
diagnoses, write extensive reports and make sound recommendations. “Why don’t we apply in
organizational consulting the learning we have acquired in other helping professions: about client
involvement, about people having to learn at their own pace, about helping clients to have
insights and solve their own problems?” (Schein, 1999a, p. 247). Building a relationship with the
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
7
client – Schein calls it ‘a helping relationship’ – is for him the first and absolutely necessary
condition for any help or learning to take place. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss
the factual and successful application of these principles in the other helping professions. Here
we want to focus on the conditions and possibilities to enhance the actual practice of those
principles in organizational consulting work. Beyond framing it as ‘a helping relationship’, we
want to deepen further the question ‘What makes those principles work?’. By substituting the
concept ‘process consultation’ by the vocabulary ‘relational practice’, we want to stress mainly
three additional accents in the process: introducing the theoretical lens of relational
constructionism, focusing on (the quality of) enacted practices and bounding the context
characteristics. Our intention is to actualize the process consultation philosophy and practice in
new thinking about organizing and changing organizational processes.
Since the seminal work of Kenneth Gergen (1982, 1
st
edition) on human sciences as a
social construction, a number of authors have joined in to develop their perspective on social
constructionism (among others: Shotter, 1993, 2004; Shotter & Katz, 1996; Gergen, 1994;
McNamee, 1998; Hosking, 2006). Social reality is considered as a mutual negotiation of
meaning among all actors involved by sharing understanding of contexts. Not only shared
cognitions (Weick, 1995) but also a mutual enactment of relationships, creates the social reality
(Gergen, 1994). Recent authors therefore prefer the concept of relational constructionism to
emphasize the relational essence of social reality construction. The quality of the relational
processes – one sidedness or reciprocity – is constitutive for the inclusion or exclusion of social
actors in the resulting social network. This paradigm underscores precisely Schein’s emphasis on
the relational work during consulting and learning activities. Schein is yet stressing the role of
feedback and reflection as a mechanism to ‘re-construct’ self and others’ perception as intra-
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
8
psychic processes. A relational constructionist perspective puts the mutual relational work right
in the center of attention. Schein could probably give a better answer to consultants, who want to
measure and write reports instead of to engage in relationship building, when he considers
organizations no longer as ‘entities’ or objects but rather as ongoing joint projects of relational
negotiation. It is an entative view versus a dynamic view on organizing (Hosking, 2004). But
changing is essentially relational work. Therefore we want to propose relational constructionism
as a proper theoretical approach to ground the essence of process consultation.
The second aspect we want to stress in substituting ‘process consultation’ by the
language of relational practice is a ‘re-turn to practice’ perspective. A group of scholars in
organization theory, inspired by philosophers as Wittgenstein and Bourdieu, sees the essence of
organizing in the enacted collective practices of knowledge and relationships (Gherardi, 2000;
Orlikowski, 2002). Joint practices are considered as the carriers of knowledge, learning and
change rather than the reflection or mere ‘talking about’ getting organized. In the relational
constructionist approach, Shotter (2004) stresses the turn to practice in our language practices of
talking and writing: ‘withness (dialogical)’ -talk versus ‘aboutness (monological)’ -talk. It is the
difference between talk that ‘moves’ and talk that leaves us ‘unmoved’. Language is considered
as action rather than representation. He distinguishes a ‘relationally responsive’ language
practice from a ‘representational-referential’ form. In consulting behavior it means that an
intervention gets its effective meaning from the actual reciprocal practice between consultant and
client rather than from the cognitive reflection. A relational practice is positioning and moving
the interacting partners. Change is enacted in the intervention and not some kind of output or
result of it. The here-and-now approach concerns the actual “doing-things-to-each-other” and not
just the reflection on the here-and-now. What works in consultation is the quality of this
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
9
reciprocal interaction. Schein hasn’t made the quality features of practices explicitly clear in his
work on process consultation; a relational practice perspective does.
INSERT TABLE 1 HERE
In Table 1 the most typical concrete and observable characteristics of high versus low
quality relational practices are listed. Most of the aspects are self-explanatory and are discussed
throughout the text. The mutual creation of energy or continuing motivation and the development
of the experience of co-ownership is particularly important. The best examples of high quality
relational practices stem from daily live activities, maybe especially in the sphere of art,
recreation and sport activities: a free dance, a good conversation, an improvisation theatre, a ball
game, a celebration.
A third aspect we want to emphasize is the importance of a proper contextual bounding.
As mentioned above, the T-group approach and the related process consultation, could not
survive in a lot of training and organization consulting settings during the eighties and nineties.
Often, there seemed to be a too large gap between the largely functional/instrumental context
‘already in place’ and process consultation. Schein doesn’t stress the importance of a proper
contextual embedding; a relational practice perspective puts it in the center of attention as will be
illustrated in the comparative case. However, even in a learning setting inspired by sensitivity
training principles and process consultation, we have noticed the importance of this contextual
embeddedness. The authors of this article are associated with a two year advanced OD-
professional development program ‘Consultancy in Groups and Organizations’ (CIGO), a
collaboration between Hasselt University (Belgium), University of Leuven (Belgium) and Case
Western Reserve University (USA), where process oriented practices constitute yet the core
activities since the early seventies up to today, especially the intensive group training experience
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
10
during the opening week. We have always been watching carefully the boundaries of this
program as a ‘cultural island’: intake of candidates, group composition, group learning norms
and appreciative support, attendance over a long time span, continuous open mutual
confrontation and authenticity, coaching of field experiences, parallel emphasis on group
maturity and personal growth, and a high quality learning community. The set up of this program
reflects a careful and continuous boundary management and renegotiation of development goals.
The development of a ‘mature learning group’ during the first week is an important condition for
the success of the rest of program. During this first week a relational context of learning
relationships is built, in which all relational practices that follow are embedded. The cultural
values of this way of working are quite different from the ‘pragmatic or functional’ values
practiced in a lot of social and business organizations. Argyris’ distinction of a model II (two
sided reciprocity) versus a model I (one sided control) world may apply here (e.g., Argyris &
Schön, 1978). In change consulting work in organizations, as we will illustrate later in this
article, it is also important to consider the fit with the relational context of any particular
organization.
Our reformulation of process consultation as ‘relational practice’ work may constitute a
more tangible and progressive approach to start the change work of bridging the gap between
client and consultant and between the actual and desired state. The art is the designing, in a given
context, of high quality relational practices that can carry the change process. The cognitive-
reflective and confrontational-emotional demands of process consultation can be a difficult
threshold. Within a relational practice perspective the emphasis is more on ‘doing the
relationship’ than reflecting on it.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
11
Beyond Process Consultation towards engaging in ‘Relational Practices’
Most characteristics of high quality relational practices apply also to process consultation,
when we focus on the openness of communication, the development of mutual trust and the
actual building of a relationship. However, there are differences both in the position actors take
and in the orientation and the goal of the collaborative interaction. Both perspectives are
discussed showing how relational practice work fits with and goes beyond Schein’s process
consultation.
Process consultation is first of all a professional role perspective from the position of the
helper consultant. In process consultation it is explicitly a meeting of a consultant or some officer
and a client or follower. It is the encounter of some kind of professional or educator with the
intention to bring some support or service or contribution. Typical for process consultation is the
framing of the relationship as a helping relationship. The attention of the helper consultant is on
deciphering observable events which guide intervention possibilities (Schein, 1999a). Schein’s
view on consultation is mainly cognitive-psychological. Carefully observing and feeding back to
the client are seen as important mechanisms to offer help. Stimulating talking about/reflecting on
joint here-and-now group experiences, on the relationships being developed and on how to do
things differently is seen as the core working principle of a good consultation session.
Reflectively talking about the frames of the client (system), and offering more appropriate
frames to help the client to reframe the situation (to help himself), is central. A good intervention
simultaneously allows both the helper and the client to diagnose what is going on. The consultant
is involved in the client’s inquiry process as a clinical inquirer and the process is primarily driven
by the client’s needs (Schein, 1995). Basically, this comes down to “the helper helps the person,
group or organization that needs help”. Process consultation also has a strong problem-solving
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
12
orientation (Schein, 1999a, 1999b). Change is seen as a result of joint consultant-client
analyzing, diagnosing and remediating.
The relational practice view is above all a practical performance perspective from the
position of all actors involved. The emphasis is on engaging in a joint activity, where both sides
have a contribution and a proper stake in the encounter. It is a more inclusive perspective. It
stresses the importance of enacting reciprocal relationships between mutually responsive co-
actors. Attention centers on jointly produced activity or co-constructed events which are strongly
embedded in context. The view underlines that relational practices are continuously embedded in
a specific historical-relational context which is always partly actualized in the interactions actors
engage in. Interaction and context are co-produced (e.g., Bourdieu, 1980; Lave, 1993; Hosking,
2006). This contextual embeddedness is the source of new possibilities, but also constrains what
can follow (Hosking, 2004). Other concepts used to indicate this relational context are “broader
networks of relationships” (McNamee, 1998), “organizational culture” (Schein, 2004) and “the
smell of the place” (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1999). Co-actors are jointly involved in each other’s
inquiry process as partners. The process is driven by mutually acknowledging and supporting
each other’s needs. “Simultaneously helping yourself and others” is considered as a core working
principle. Within process consultation the shaping of the reciprocity is more imbalanced. It is the
consultant helper who engages in the inquiry process of the client as a clinical inquirer; they are
not equal partners. Similarly to process consultation a relational practice perspective works with
the here-and-now interacting but stresses more the embedded nature of practices in a particular
relational context. Simultaneous enactment of engaging, experiencing and reflecting within joint
practice is central. A consultation session is considered as ‘good’ if partners are not only
reflecting on how to do things differently but really do things differently, i.e. more jointly and
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
13
generatively, enacting more relational quality (see Table 1). There is more emphasis on doing
things together than on reflecting or diagnosing. Framing and reframing is jointly done. Within a
relational practice perspective the quality of interaction, and relationships, is seen as the most
active carrier of the quality of organizing and change processes (e.g., Shotter, 1993; Bouwen,
1998). This way, relational practice work has a more solution-focused appreciative orientation
(e.g., Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros, 2003). Changing is co-engaging in generative practices.
The focus is on possibilities and new opportunities. The joint action is going where the energy is.
The context is involved mainly through the joint activity actors engage in. The essence of good
relational practice work is doing things together in such a quality way that all actors involved
benefit from the practice. In Table 2 the different accents of process consultation and relational
practice work are summarized.
INSERT TABLE 2 HERE
In the fourth part of the article the relational practice lens, and its relationship to process
consultation, is illustrated by an in-depth comparative case of a successful and unsuccessful
change process, respectively in a health care organization (CARE) and a consulting firm
(CONSULT).
Illustrating a relational practice perspective: an in-depth comparative case
Both cases concern a fundamental change process that is intensively facilitated by
consultants over a time period of approximately two years. Similar high quality relational
practices, when looking at the here-and-now concrete interventions and interaction
characteristics (see Table 1), were set up to shape the change process towards a new
organizational structure and functioning. However, the concrete context-bounded actualization
and assembling of the relational practices, and consequently the effects of the relational practices
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
14
on the change process, is very different in both cases. In CARE the change process is successful
according to the actors involved, in CONSULT the change process is rather seen as a failure.
Firstly, the two organizations and their respective change processes are portrayed concisely.
Next, a number of working relational practices and the importance of a proper contextual
boundedness are illustrated.
Change in CARE and CONSULT
CARE is a Dutch health care organization that provides care and support to adults and
children with mental handicaps (‘clients’). The organization consists of 450 co-workers which
work in several regional divisions. CARE is a value-driven organization with an explicit and
shared mission that accentuates the welfare, involvement and participation of both clients and co-
workers. The change process is an in-depth internal ‘team-oriented’ transformation in order to
face up to the external pressure of scale enlargement in the health sector. CARE works on
organization development and, in doing so, tries to preserve and even to strengthen its mission
and identity. Most visible nevertheless are the structural changes. Firstly, a management team
was formed in order to support the managing director, who participated in the two year advanced
OD-professional development program CIGO mentioned above. Secondly, team coaches, who
merely ‘supported’ social workers, became team leaders with more coordinating and supervising
responsibilities. Thirdly, the central administration was consolidated and improved. To enact
these changes, a number of ‘relational practices’ interventions were set up: e.g., implementing of
learning groups; organizing large group interventions to inform, involve and align co-workers
and to make them co-author and co-owner of the change process; co-designing an evaluation of
the change process towards further continuous organizational development.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
15
CONSULT is a Belgian consultancy firm that supports organizations in the field of Total
Quality Management (TQM) in the broad sense. Apart from ten permanent co-workers,
CONSULT also works with a network of freelance consultants. Similarly to CARE, the change
process is profound. It concerns a transformation of the vision, team working and internal
organization to reposition the organization to deal with the increasing pressure of the consultancy
market. Formerly, expert training through open training programs in the CONSULT facilities
was given primary attention. Because of market changes, and associated changes in the
professional aspirations of the CONSULT members, the current organization mainly offers in-
company consultancy and training. Another important parallel with CARE is that the managing
director of CONSULT participated in the same process oriented development program CIGO as
the director of CARE. As in the CARE case, different relational practices can be distinguished:
e.g., having meetings to (re)formulate the mission, vision and strategy; creating new forms of
leadership and task distribution; evaluating the open training programs and introducing a more
client centered view on TQM.
Designing and assembling relational practices within the CARE and CONSULT change process
A number of high quality relational practices, with observable working effects in the
here-and-now, can be illustrated for each case. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all
relational practices that have shaped both change processes. Some of the above mentioned high
quality relational practices of CARE are discussed, followed by those of CONSULT. Next, the
quality of the overall relational practices of CARE and CONSULT are compared in detail.
The implementation of learning groups within CARE. During the change process of
CARE learning groups were designed within and between various hierarchical levels: the team
leader with his/her team, team leaders from different divisions, the manager with his/her team
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
16
leaders and the management team. These learning groups were set up at a monthly basis and
lasted three hours per session. Process consultants facilitated these learning groups until this
practice became self steering and fully owned by the participants themselves.
From the beginning, these learning groups were jointly negotiated as legitimate spaces,
where learning through sharing experiences constituted the most important and explicit goal.
Participants met, reflected and experimented actively with their daily work issues, (here-and-
now) interactions, mutual relationships, emotions, “how we are functioning as a group” and the
organizational change process. The learning was around the here-and-now ongoing relational
practice, the jointly created role plays and the joint practicing of new, more generative ways of
relating and enacting the change process. The learning experience was directly connected to
actual organizational practices. Participants worked directly on the improvement of recent real
life cases. Hence, the classical problem of transfer was strongly reduced through the richness and
context-boundedness of the learning practice itself. Enacting, experiencing and reflecting on
common relational practices was the permanent learning ground. Participants exchanged
concrete and personal experiences in the group and experimented with new forms of interacting
that were more supporting the joint learning goals. Continuously keeping a sharp eye on the level
of authenticity, transparency and reciprocity enacted in the ongoing interactions is an important
working principle of the learning groups. This can be illustrated by the open way a conflict
episode between the managing director and a member of the management team was dealt with in
the learning group. All participants, including the consultant, reflected on each other’s
perspectives and framed and reframed their understandings of the ongoing situation. Gradually
they developed a more differentiated and shared image of the situation, that opened up new space
to continue in a constructive way.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
17
Over time learning group participants developed a strong sense of co-ownership of the
new learning form. The facilitating consultants stimulated participants to become increasingly
engaged and relationally responsive in the joint practice of the learning group. This way they
made themselves gradually superfluous. The consultant remained ‘low key’ (Schein, 1999b), by
putting aside own judgments, and only intervened if he felt he could stimulate more enacting of
reciprocal and generative relationships. The team leaders, and the team members, gradually
incorporated this consultation behavior. They expanded their (inter)action repertoire to enhance
the interactivity and reflexivity, and thus the quality of the ongoing process. One team leader
expressed “what works” in the learning groups as “now, we are talking directly to each other,
and we are really testing new possibilities, instead of talking about each other behind each
other’s back” (e.g., Shotter, 2004).
The organization of large group interventions within CARE. As mentioned earlier, the
process of including and excluding voices in relational practices is a central concern when taking
a relational practice perspective. It was also a central concern in the organizational change
process of the health organization CARE, in which various actors were involved gradually using
large group interventions. After a first report was made by an external audit agency, in which
several recommendations for improving the organization were proposed and discussed,
consultants facilitated a first two day-long large group intervention for all leading staff, i.e., the
managing director, the management team and the team leaders. Here the recommendations of the
report were jointly discussed: “can we agree on the directions of the proposed change and if so,
how do we proceed?”. All actors involved agreed with the proposed changes and decisions were
made to translate the changes into concrete actions. A mixed coordination and design group, in
which a diversity of perspectives was involved (managing director, two members of the
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
18
management team, two team leaders, an external consultant and two care givers), was set up to
monitor and to coordinate the change process, and design subsequent large group interventions to
enact the change process. Three workgroups were set up and a joint practice between team
leaders and management team was initiated to make new job descriptions for both groups. By
involving actors this way ‘withness (dialogical)’ -talk (Shotter, 2004), co-authorship and joint
ownership are stimulated.
Six months later a second large group intervention was set up in which all relevant
stakeholders (caregivers, parents and relatives, supporting staff, clients, team leaders,
management team and director) were brought together in two days (200 persons a day). The days
were co-facilitated by several consultants. The goal of this relational practice was to create
involvement and ownership of the change process, to energize and engage participants and to
celebrate and strengthen a sense of solidarity and unity. Participants enacted energizing and
reciprocal practices through appreciative interviews and group reflection about the life-giving
forces of their work and CARE. Participants were also invited in groups to actively and
creatively design the basic values of CARE with the help of applied improvisation theatre. The
creatively “doing together” resulted in a lot of energy to go forward. The large group
intervention ended with jointly formulating priority action points to enact the desired change
process. The design group collected the main results which were fed back shortly after the event.
To consolidate the change process an evaluation meeting was planned a few months later.
The organization of a two day long revitalization and strategy intervention within
CONSULT. Similar to CARE, CONSULT also engaged in relational practices in which the
whole organization was involved. The director had developed a strategic model in advance and
wanted to test whether his model was seen as feasible and could be accepted by all
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
19
organizational actors. However, together with an external process consultant, the decision was
made to set a few steps back. All CONSULT-members were invited to a two day long strategic
weekend, allowing to create co-ownership and relational responsibility about strategic issues and
about the vision of CONSULT. Participants were the director, three board members, six
consultants, a freelancer, a client, five supporting staff members, the external process consultant
and PhD researchers. Typical illustrations for the relational practices being set up can be
identified. Firstly, participants engaged in appreciative interviews by two about recent high
points in daily work experience. This proved to be a mutually energizing and rewarding activity.
Participants were really involved and ‘moved’ by each other’s stories. They questioned each
other about “what exactly gave you energy concerning this high point?”. Next, three groups were
formed. Concrete experiences and associated energy giving factors were discussed and written
down on a flip chart for plenary presentations. Starting from the identified energizers participants
jointly generated an ‘ideal’ dream image of CONSULT in small groups: “picture CONSULT in
10 years, it is the perfect organization to work in, the collaboration among co-workers is very
good, we are market-leader and the benchmark for other companies; what characteristics
(structures, way of interacting, internal organization) would be in place?” The dream images
were drawn on a flip-chart and presented plenary. A lot of energy was generated. The images
were questioned, contradicted and complemented with other views. The meeting ended with
jointly discussing priority action points to make the desired future come true in joint actual
practice. The decision was made to do an evaluation in six months.
Although there was a lot of energy in the here-and-now, and participants engaged in
reciprocal interactions, this energy declined later in the process mainly because of one-sided
interactions from the chairman of the board of directors. Issues concerning vision and strategy
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
20
temporarily ebbed away. However, in the course of the change process, the need was felt again
to explicitly continue developing a shared vision that could be supported by all organizational
members.
Designing a group meeting for formulating a new vision. After one of the actors had
introduced the idea of working on the question “what does quality mean for each of us?”, a
consultant was involved to help in the co-creation of a common vision based on the individual
“quality stories”. Similar to the strategy weekend, the appreciative nature of the question can be
seen as a generative metaphor that made an important opening for engaged and reflective
interactions “moving” all actors. It stimulated a generative way of engaging in relation with each
other.
For example, the management assistant said that for her quality comes to life when she is
surrounded by people that respect and trust her. Her story became more tangible when her
colleagues and the consultant reformulated her idea, supported what she said and in fact engaged
in interactions so important for this management assistant’s daily work.
Another example is the story of the director who equaled quality with discovering
possibilities for standing “between” people instead of “above” them. When he indicated that he
had the feeling of losing the connection with co-workers, mutual testing of assumptions was
induced, allowing for deep learning to take place.
The appreciative relational practice of sharing stories about quality was furthermore
characterized by interventions (from consultant ánd co-workers) such as self-reflection,
reciprocity between contributions, open and concrete communication. The consultant stimulated
these interventions, but kept a low profile in order to let the group members take their process
more in their own hands.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
21
In a next step, the group formulated the idea to visualize the separate quality stories in the
image of a sun. Common values were placed in the heart of the sun, where personal accents were
placed in the sunbeams. The metaphor of the sun, pasting post-its on the image, and discussing
about it, allowed all actors to “do things” together, beyond mere reflecting on quality. This joint
relational practice, in which all actors experienced co-authorship and co-ownership, was
associated with a high energy level that was created right on the spot. Finally, arrangements were
made to follow up the meeting to further concretize the organizational vision.
Comparing the quality of the overall relational practices of CARE and CONSULT. When
observing the relational practices within the CARE change process various concrete high quality
relationships characteristics are prominent. In most relational practices there is a high
responsiveness and reciprocity. Actors build on each other’s contributions and are taking joint
responsibility for the here-and-now process and outcomes: they experience co-authorship and co-
ownership of the task, process and outcome. They take a reflective stance and decipher what is
going on and what should improve but don’t stay (too) long in this reflective or ‘talking about’
mode. What they mostly do is really doing and practicing new interaction alternatives and
working methods in the here-and-now: “Lets try it out now and learn from it instead of staying
so ‘cognitive’ about it, so we can build on it further”. They experiment; there is mutual
questioning and contradicting going on about the enactment of new tangible possibilities for
improvement.
In contrast to CARE, the relational practices of the CONSULT change process are
strongly dominated by observing and reflecting on here-and-now interactions and relationships
and giving feedback to each other about personal and group functioning. Seen from a process
consultation point of view, actors develop high interactional quality in terms of observable
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
22
interaction characteristics. They question each other; mutually contradicting and testing is
possible and emotions are openly discussed. They stay in a reflective mode and talk most of the
time about how to solve the problems at hand. In comparison with CARE, we observe that the
actual practicing of new ways of relating and new work approaches and building mutually on
each other’s contributions, occurs less frequently. Within CONSULT, it seems that actors are
reproducing with each other process consultation interventions. There is a lot of cognitive-
psychological inquiry work going on. However, creating new alternatives and experimenting
with concrete new work forms – actually “doing-things-to-each-other” – is often missing.
Although there are some differences in the concrete way that the relational practices of CARE
and CONSULT are enacted, these quality differences are not sufficient to explain the very
different effects of the relational practices in the change process. It is only through in-depth
interviews with all actors involved that the importance of the context-bounded actualization of
relational practices becomes clear.
Contextual features in relational practices for change
In this paragraph we will illustrate how relational practices are always embedded in
contextual features. When comparing relational practices from CARE to those from CONSULT
only by examining observable characteristics as summarized in Table 1, we could conclude that
both cases engage in some similar high quality relational practices. Moreover, the managing
directors of both organizations participated in the same advanced professional development
program for group and organizational consultants that is inspired by Schein’s process
consultation principles. Consequently, they are very sensitive to the quality of the relational
practices in their organization as an indication of the overall organizational health and vitality.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
23
By using de-contextualized discourse analyses of conversational episodes during both
change processes, one would have concluded that both change processes were similarly
successful because they share so many high quality relational practices. However, in-depth
interviews with the actors revealed that in CARE, people unanimously perceived the change
process as being successful. In CONSULT however, people tended to have a general lack of
energy and a negative perception about the whole change process. Even if we asked them about
relational practices that were – according to what we had observed – of high quality, actors were
very skeptical and didn’t give us the impression that these practices were very helpful for the
change process.
What is going on here? Different historical-relational contexts ‘do’ different things to the
same kind of observable interactional quality of relational practices. Even high quality relational
practices will not improve group or organizational functioning when embedded in a relational
context that doesn’t support collaboration. Table 3 gives an extensive overview of the
constraining contextual features of CONSULT and the supporting contextual features of CARE.
INSERT TABLE 3 HERE
Firstly, the managing director in both organizations is perceived quite differently. In the
change process of CARE, the managing director is seen as a legitimate authority figure. He is
appreciated and accepted by nearly all members of the organization. When interviewed, one
caregiver expressed this common feeling as: “he is a warm-hearted managing director, do you
know that he knows every person’s first name, we are an organization of approximately 450
people, amazing, isn’t it?”. In the change process of CONSULT, the mutual perception of the
relationship among the managing director and a large number of the organizational members is
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
24
characterized by no ‘real’ contact, distrust, defensive reactions, lack of acceptance, mutual
blaming and complaining. Over time, this feeling has spread over the entire organization.
A second important contextual feature is very much connected with process consultation.
The director of CONSULT speaks a “process-language” without being able to translate this to all
co-workers. He emphasizes the process of “jointly deciphering what is going on” by mainly
focusing on continuous reflection and feedback. In CARE, the director is able to speak different
languages, depending on the specific situation. Moreover, emphasis in CARE is not in the first
place on feedback and reflection, but mainly on the practice of doing new things together. This is
a clear example of the difference between a process consultation logic and a relational practice
logic.
The context of CONSULT in which relational practices are embedded is furthermore
characterized by uncertainty about the future of the company, a lack of a clear vision, a culture of
ad hoc coping with problems, of unbounded autonomy and freedom, and of not keeping mutual
commitments having consequences. The overall mutually perception of relationships and
intentions is “she/he wants to make progression at the expense of me, I cannot trust her/him”.
The relational context of CARE is characterized by quite different features. There is a
‘basic enthusiasm and energy’ and high job satisfaction. A strong inspiring mission and vision is
understood, subscribed to and enacted in the daily work practices by the critical mass of the
organizational members (“the talk is walked”). Leadership is accepted on all levels. Problems
that emerge are consequently translated into possibilities and actions for improvement. CARE
has a history of setting up shared learning and developmental practices on all organizational
levels as enactment of a strong organizational value, stressed continuously: “personal
development is organizational development and vice versa”. The overall mutual perception of
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
25
relationships and intentions is “we are here to help each other to develop and in doing so, we
simultaneously develop our organization”. Finally, in CARE explicit attention is given to
assembling relational practices, where in CONSULT the relational practices are set up, stand
alone and fade away.
The embeddedness of the relational practices in these different contextual features
explains why the change processes of CARE and CONSULT are experienced so differently and
seen by the actors as being respectively successful and unsuccessful. Similar observable
interpersonal interaction qualities can thus have very different consequences on the change
efforts, depending on the specific organizational context. A relational practice intervention
therefore will simultaneously enact these contextual features into the ongoing change processes.
Conclusions
The main purpose of this article is to re-conceptualize and to reframe the seminal work of
Edgar Schein on ‘process consultation’, by introducing a ‘relational practice’ perspective.
Although Schein kept working on a revisited version, emphasizing the development of a helping
relationship as the necessary condition for in-depth organizational change, ‘process consultation’
had a hard time to survive the instrumental turn of organization development during the seventies
and eighties. The authors of this article nevertheless kept practicing the ‘process consultation’
principles in intensive experiential group training sessions and organizational change work.
A new theoretical foundation in social constructionism and a practical turn to relational
work in context can constitute a new grounding in the concept of ‘relational practice’. Social-
relational constructionism goes beyond an objectified view on organizations and considers
embodied relationships as the building blocks of all organizing work. The emphasis is on ‘the
doing’ and the enacting simultaneously of meaning and membership in a community of practice.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
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Through stressing practices among the actors, the context is also involved in the interaction. The
consultant as an active practitioner is engaging and inviting other actors in high quality relational
practices to re-construct or to re-create jointly a new social reality. A relational practice
perspective goes beyond the mainly cognitive-interpretative work of negotiating a helping
relationship, towards the mutual engagement of participating actors in high quality relationships.
These particular qualities of relational practices are discussed, illustrated and distinguished from
‘process consultation’ as practices for creating co-ownership and testable transparency of
ongoing joint developmental activities.
Two organizational change case studies have illustrated the ‘relational practice’
perspective throughout the interventions in a health care organization and a consulting firm.
Interventions as relational practices were introduced in both contexts and were reported based on
participant observations. Similar high quality relational practices, when looking at the here-and-
now concrete interventions and interaction characteristics, were set up to enact the change
processes of the two organizations. However, the concrete context-bounded actualization and
assembling of the relational practices, and consequently the longer term outcomes on the change
processes, were very different in both cases as reported during debriefing interviews. Although a
high interactional quality of relational practices constituted the essence of key interventions in
both contexts, the effects on the change process were quite different. In the health care
organization the relational practices for change were congruent with existing organizational
practices. In the consulting organization the relational practice interventions had difficulties to
connect with the dominant way of working. The context specificity was not enough embodied in
the change practices of the consulting firm resulting in an unsuccessful change process.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
27
The contribution of this article is to offer a new theoretical and practical grounding of
Schein’s seminal ideas on ‘process consultation’. There is, in present day organizations, a high
need for relational work internally with collaborating units and externally with a variety of
stakeholders. A ‘relational practice’ perspective may open new possibilities to connect
consulting interventions with a turbulent and complex organizational context. The contextual
demands and specificities have to be integrated adequately in the design and enactment of the
‘relational practice’ interventions. The boundary management of a change project or a training
program may be a critical task to connect the changing part of a system with the broader
environment. This bounding among internal and critical external stakeholders may be designed
and enacted in proper relational practices among the interfacing agents. If organizational
consultation work can take the practical turn and the relational turn, that we concretized in the
‘relational practice’ perspective, then there may be a future for process consultation in the highly
interactive and interdependent world of present day organizations.
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
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Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
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Table 1
Concrete and observable characteristics defining low and high quality relational practice
Low quality relational practice High quality relational practice Inspiring authors
- one-sidedness in relationship
- ‘talking about’: distant, disengaged
or uninvolved, unresponsive
interaction that leaves speakers
‘unmoved’ and possibly evokes
generalizable understanding
- statements are vague and not
illustrated
- mutual questioning, testing and
contradicting of statements is not
possible or avoided
- mutual blaming, defending and
complaining
- no possibility of jointly becoming
author and owner of a task or project
- dominant voices control the
interaction, other voices are kept
silent and are excluded
- talking from outside the here-and-
now interaction
- reciprocity between the actors’
contributions
- ‘talking with’: sensitive, engaged or
involved, reflective, responsive
interaction that ‘moves’ speakers and
possibly evokes actionable knowledge
- mutually open, concrete and
illustrated communication
- mutual questioning, testing and
contradicting of statements is possible
and stimulated allowing for ‘deep’ or
double loop learning
- jointly talking in terms of
possibilities and energy-giving forces
- joint authorship and co-ownership of
a task or project
- multiple voices can be raised, heard
and are included
- talking from within the here-and-now
interaction
Bouwen, 2001; Bouwen &
Taillieu, 2004
Shotter, 1993, 2004; Beer, 2000
Argyris, & Schön, 1978
Argyris & Schön, 1978; Schön &
Rein, 1994
Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros,
2003; Quinn & Dutton, 2005
Schein, 1999a, 1999b; Shotter,
1993, 2004
Bouwen & Hosking, 2000;
Hosking, 2004, 2006
McNamee, 1998; McNamee &
Gergen, 1998
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Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
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Table 2
Comparison between process consultation and relational practice perspective
Process consultation perspective Relational practice perspective
- professional role perspective from the position
of helper consultant
- core focus: building helping relationships
- ‘helping’-metaphor: being helpful as consultant,
teacher, parent, spouse, etc.
- consultant’s attention is on observing and giving
back to the client
- clinical inquiry of the client: ‘the helper helps
the person or entity that needs help’
- working with here-and-now interaction
- stimulating ‘talking about’ and reflecting on
joint group experiences and on the relationships
being developed
- problem-solving orientation
- mainly cognitive-psychological view on
consultation
- essence of good process consultancy: helping
the client to help himself
- practical performance perspective from the
position of co-actor
- core focus: enacting reciprocal relationships
- ‘responsiveness’-metaphor: being mutually
responsive as co-actors
- attention is on jointly produced activity or co-
constructed events embedded in context
- co-actors are jointly involved in each other’s
inquiry process: ‘simultaneously helping yourself
and others’
- working with here-and-now interacting
embedded in context
- simultaneous enactment of engaging,
experiencing and reflecting; doing things
differently together
- solution-focused appreciative orientation
- interactionist view on consultation
- essence of good relational practice work: doing
things together in such a quality way (see Table 1)
that all actors involved benefit from the practice
Process consultation revisited
Reference: Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process
consultation revisited: Taking a relational practice perspective. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 45, 1, 39-58.
34
Table 3
Embeddedness of relational practices in historical-relational context: constraining contextual features of
CONSULT and supporting contextual features of CARE
Contextual factors of CONSULT constraining
high quality relational practices
Contextual factors of CARE supporting high
quality relational practices
- distrust towards managing director, no ‘real
contact’, none acceptance, mutual blaming and
complaining
- managing director only speaks a ‘process-
language’ and merely translates this to all
coworkers
- culture of reflecting without putting it into joint
‘practice’
- no clear mission, vision and strategy to ‘guide’
(inter)actions
- culture of unbounded autonomy and freedom, of
not keeping one’s commitments to each other, no
consequences
- financial problems making future insecure
- atmosphere of ad hoc coping with problems
- culture of stressing differences between persons
and groups
- no history of ‘learning and development’
- lack of energy and a negative perception about
the change process
- no perceived legitimate space to engage in
deeper conversations; lack of formal job
evaluation conversations and coaching
- lack of (or low quality of) assembling relational
practices, no follow-up
- managing director perceived as a legitimate
authority figure, accepted leadership on all levels
- managing director and management team are able
to ‘wear different hats’: formal, informal, juridical
- culture of doing (new) things; making the future
together instead of talking about the past
- strong and inspiring mission (values) and vision
that is understood, subscribed to and enacted in
daily work
- freedom is embedded in principles, goals,
agreements (e.g., mission statement)
- bright (financial) future
- emerging problems are consequently translated
into possibilities and actions for improvement
- focus is on searching for similarities: bridges are
continuously built between groups
- shared practices of learning and development on
all levels
- basic enthusiasm and energy among critical mass
of coworkers
- mutually accepted learning space by means of
learning groups, anchored in the organizational
structure; individual & group coaching and job
evaluation conversations are installed
- high quality assembling of relational practices
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