Edgar H. Schein is Professor of Management Emeritus in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a real academic heavyweight having written numerous books, articles and papers. In 1969 he published 'Process Consultation: Its Role in Organizational Development', of which he states that he "was writing more in anger than with perspective". In this follow-up book he tried to explain and clarify the concept of consultation and helping which was outlined in the first volume. "The goals of this new book, then, are (1) to reaffirm the concept of process consultation as a viable model of how to work with human systems, (2) to clarify the concept were needed, and (3) to introduce some modifications and new ideas that elaborate on the original ideas."
The book is split up in 3 parts. In Part I - Introduction and Overview, which consists of three chapters, Schein introduces the common grounds of managers and consultants (which is the helping orientation), process consultation, and "the process" itself. He introduces a definition of process consultation which "is a set of activities on the part of the consultant that help the client to perceive, understand, and act upon the process events that occur in the client's environment." Whereby he emphasizes that the concept of process central is to understanding consultation and management. "Process refers to how things are done rather than what is done." He continues, "Process is everywhere. In order to help, intervene, and facilitate human problem solving, one must focus on communication and interpersonal processes."
In Part II - Simplifying Models of Human Processes, which also consists of three chapters, Schein examines several models of consultation and argues that the process-consultation model works for consultants as interveners and is potentially most useful for managers. "The most important thing for managers or consultants to understand is what goes on inside their own heads." He introduces the basic ORJI cycle, which is based on the fact that our nervous system observes (O), reacts (R), analyzes, processes, and make judgments (J), and intervenes in order to make something happen (I). He later updates this cycle into a more realistic depiction of the ORJI cycle, through the introduction of 4 traps. Schein than states that the cultural rules of interaction is possibly the most powerful determinant whether a viable helping relationship will be established. In the final chapter of this part, he examines in detail a simplified model of the change process: (1) Unfreezing; (2) changing; and (3) refreezing.
In the final part of the book - The Consulting Process in Action, which is also the longest part of the book with five chapters, the author examines in detail the strategy and tactics of intervention. "The most important point to be made about clients is that the consultant must always be clear who the client is at any given moment in time, and must distinguish clearly among contact, intermediate, primary, and ultimate client." Schein discusses what the consultant or manager can actually say or do to accomplish some of the goals of process consultation. "The strategy and tactics of intervention have to be guided by the ultimate assumptions underlying the helping process." In addition, he provides categories of types of interventions and discusses the possible dilemmas that can arise in the consultation processes. "The skill of intervening is to be so tuned in to what is going on that one's sense of timing and appropriateness is based on the external events, not one's internal assumptions or theories."
Yes, this is a good book on process consultation. I was somewhat concerned when I started reading this book, due to Schein's highly academical background. However, the book has been a revelation. It is highly practical and has good tips on which can be put in practical use. I believe that it useful for both consultants and managers, as the author set out from the start. I believe that the three parts can be read in any order, whereby the last part is possibly the most useful as it is the most practical. Please note that the writing style is now somewhat outdated and academical. Highly recommended to consultants and managers alike.