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Process Consultation

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Plumbing the Depths of Process

Delve into the intricate and transformative world of Process Consultation, a methodology pioneered by Edgar Schein. Born from organizational psychology and the pressing need for deeper introspection within businesses, Process Consultation (PC) focuses not on what is being done, but how it's being done. As technology advances and organizations grapple with rapid changes, understanding the underlying processes becomes paramount. PC aligns teams, cultivates understanding, and fosters genuine communication. Let's journey through the foundations, implications, and applications of this methodology.


Process Consultation offers a myriad of organizational advantages:

  • Enhanced Communication: PC unravels communication blocks and encourages genuine dialogue.

  • Root Problem Identification: Instead of surface-level issues, PC delves into underlying systemic problems.

  • Team Cohesion: By focusing on processes, teams become more aligned and collaborative.

  • Organizational Clarity: PC provides a clearer understanding of roles, responsibilities, and interactions.

  • Sustainable Solutions: Solutions derived from PC tend to be more enduring as they address core issues.

When to use

Process Consultation is a versatile tool, shining in varied organizational situations:

  • Communication Breakdowns: When teams face recurrent misunderstandings or conflicts.

  • Organizational Changes: Especially during mergers or restructuring, to ensure smooth transitions.

  • Team Misalignment: When there's a perceived gap between team goals and organizational objectives.

  • Leadership Challenges: Helping leaders understand and adjust their interaction styles for better outcomes.

  • Cultural Assessments: As organizations grow globally, understanding and integrating various cultural nuances.

Tailor PC to your organization's unique needs for optimal results.

OD Application

The Art and Science of Process Consultation in Organizational Development

Process Consultation (PC) stands as one of the foundational pillars in the domain of Organizational Development (OD). Conceived by Edgar Schein, this approach emphasizes the consultant's role in helping organizations understand and improve their own internal processes. Rather than imposing solutions, the consultant acts as a facilitator, enabling the organization to diagnose and address its own challenges.

Deep Dive into Process Consultation

Process Consultation is an intervention where the consultant primarily focuses on organizational processes – the sequences of events, patterns of interaction, or other dynamics that occur between tasks, individuals, or groups. It’s not about what is happening in an organization, but how it’s happening. The central tenet is the belief that solutions to organizational challenges are most effective and sustainable when the people involved come to understand and solve their own problems.

Impacts on Well-being

Individual Level

1. Enhanced Self-awareness:As individuals are involved in the process of diagnosing organizational challenges, they gain insights into their own behaviors, biases, and patterns of interaction.

2. Empowerment:Being part of the solution-building process gives individuals a sense of ownership and control, leading to increased motivation and engagement.

3. Skill Development:Engaging in Process Consultation can equip individuals with critical problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills.

Team Level

1. Improved Team Dynamics:By focusing on the "how" of interactions, teams can identify and rectify dysfunctional patterns of communication or collaboration.

2. Cohesion and Trust:Working collectively to address challenges fosters a sense of unity and trust among team members.

3. Shared Vision:As teams engage in Process Consultation, they often emerge with a clearer, shared understanding of their goals and the strategies to achieve them.

Impacts on Organizational Prosperity

1. Sustainable Solutions:Because solutions are derived from within the organization, they are often more aligned with the organization's culture and realities, leading to more sustainable outcomes.

2. Enhanced Organizational Learning:Process Consultation fosters a culture of introspection and continuous learning, enabling organizations to adapt and evolve in a dynamic environment.

3. Efficient Processes:With a focus on the processes, inefficiencies or bottlenecks can be identified and streamlined, leading to improved operational efficiency.

Guidelines for Implementing Process Consultation

1. Adopt a Facilitative Stance:The consultant should view themselves as a facilitator, not an expert with solutions. The role is to guide, question, and probe, allowing the organization to find its own answers.

2. Prioritize Active Listening:It’s crucial to truly listen to the concerns, perceptions, and insights of individuals within the organization.

3. Foster a Safe Environment:For honest introspection and dialogue to occur, individuals must feel safe to express their views without fear of retribution.

Determining the Need for Process Consultation

1. Recurring Organizational Challenges:If an organization faces recurring challenges despite implementing solutions, it might indicate deeper process-related issues.

2. Dysfunctional Team Dynamics:If teams are struggling with collaboration, communication, or conflict, Process Consultation can help address the underlying dynamics.

3. Organizational Change:During periods of change, Process Consultation can help ensure that new processes are integrated smoothly and effectively.

Observing the Impact

Individual Level:Look for increased levels of engagement, improved interpersonal dynamics, and enhanced problem-solving skills.

Team Level:Monitor for improved team collaboration, clearer communication, and a reduction in conflicts or misunderstandings.

Organizational Level:Track improvements in operational efficiency, enhanced adaptability, and the successful resolution of previously persistent challenges.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Organizational Development, Process Consultation offers a beacon of empowerment, collaboration, and sustainable growth. By focusing on the "how" rather than the "what," it enables organizations to unearth deeply rooted challenges and co-create solutions that are both effective and enduring. It’s not just about addressing the symptoms but delving deep to understand and rectify the underlying causes. In this journey, the consultant is neither a passive observer nor an imposing expert but a co-traveler, guiding and facilitating the organization in its quest for excellence.


Healthcare: Healing Communication Gaps

Challenge: A multi-disciplinary healthcare team faced regular misunderstandings, impacting patient care.

Solution: Implementing Process Consultation, they identified underlying communication issues and addressed them systematically.

Outcome: Improved patient outcomes and a more cohesive healthcare team.

Technology: Streamlining Code and Communication

Challenge: A software development team's productivity was hampered by internal conflicts.

Solution: Through PC, they realigned their communication processes, leading to smoother project progression.

Outcome: Faster software development cycles and a harmonious team environment.

Non-Profit: Mission Alignment

Challenge: A global non-profit grappled with aligning its diverse teams towards its core mission.

Solution: PC helped in understanding the varied team processes and aligning them towards the central objective.

Outcome: More impactful projects and a unified organizational direction.

Facilitator Notes

How to Introduce Process Consultation

Introducing Process Consultation requires finesse and understanding. Begin by gauging the team's current state and openness to introspection. Emphasize the methodology's benefits, especially in enhancing communication and understanding. Address potential apprehensions openly and encourage an environment of trust.

Sample Introduction Script

"Team, as we constantly strive for excellence, it's crucial to understand not just what we do but how we do it. This is where Process Consultation comes in. Pioneered by Edgar Schein, this methodology will guide us in refining our processes, enhancing communication, and aligning our objectives. Let's embark on this journey of introspection and growth together."

Helpful Facilitator Questions

  1. How do you perceive our current communication processes?

  2. What challenges do you face in team interactions?

  3. How can we refine our processes for better outcomes?

  4. Are there any recurrent issues that need addressing?

  5. How do you see your role in the larger organizational context?

  6. How can we align our team objectives better?

  7. What changes would you suggest in our current processes?

  8. How comfortable are you in providing feedback within the team?

  9. Are there any cultural nuances we should be mindful of?

  10. How can we ensure the sustainability of the changes we implement?

Anticipating and Overcoming Resistance

Process Perceptions: Navigating the Nuances


  • Apprehension to Change: Teams might resist altering established processes.

  • Defensiveness: Some might perceive PC as a critique of their methods.


  • Open Dialogue: Encourage open discussions and address concerns head-on.

  • Highlight Benefits: Emphasize the long-term benefits of refining processes.

Recognizing Successful Facilitation

Milestones in Methodology

  • Open Communication: Team members actively share feedback and concerns.

  • Process Refinement: Tangible changes in team processes, leading to better outcomes.

  • Feedback Implementation: Constructive feedback is actively implemented.

Deep Dive

Related Theories

Organizational Development (Edgar Schein) Field: Organizational Behavior Schein's work in organizational development forms the backbone of PC, emphasizing the need for continuous introspection and development within organizations.

Theory of Change (Kurt Lewin) Field: Social Psychology Understanding change processes and the resistance to change is crucial in effectively implementing PC.

Group Dynamics (Dorwin Cartwright & Alvin Zander) Field: Social Psychology This theory studies the behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group, directly related to the methodologies in PC.


  1. How does Process Consultation differ from traditional consultation methodologies?

  2. How can PC be adapted for varied organizational sizes?

  3. What's the role of leadership in Process Consultation?

  4. How does PC tackle resistance to change?

  5. How can Process Consultation be made sustainable?


Unraveling the Underlying Processes

  1. Impact of Process Consultation on Team Productivity: A quantitative analysis.

  2. Role of Leadership in PC: Understanding leadership's role in successful PC implementation.

  3. Cultural Nuances in PC: Adapting PC for diverse organizational cultures.

  4. Sustainability of PC Solutions: A longitudinal study on the lasting impact of PC.

  5. Process Consultation in Global Organizations: Challenges and solutions.


  1. "Process Consultation Revisited: Building the Helping Relationship" by Edgar Schein: Dive deep into the world of PC with the pioneer himself.

  2. "Organizational Culture and Leadership" by Edgar Schein: Understand the interplay of culture and leadership in organizations.

  3. "The Corporate Culture Survival Guide" by Edgar Schein: A guide on understanding and influencing corporate culture.


Process Consultation is more than a methodology; it's a transformative journey. By understanding and refining processes, organizations unlock unparalleled growth and cohesion. Dive deep with Process Consultation and navigate the intricate pathways of organizational excellence.

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