Book Review: Flawless Consulting

At one time or another, everyone, including IT professionals, will play the role of consultant. So says Peter Block in the update of his consulting classic <I>Flawless Consulting</I>.

In the 1999 update of his classic consulting manual, Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting your Expertise Used, author Peter Block explains his message methodically and clearly: Each person is a consultant, and each of us can learn to consult flawlessly. Certainly these tenets appear very basic, but why do so many people flounder when faced with consulting jobs?

"I think there are two barriers," Block says. "One is the belief that if you're right, it's enough. Two is that the focus is on the solution, and low priority is given to the relationship. You have to heighten the consciousness between the IT professional and the user. That's the key to implementation. It's the barrier to getting your ideas used."
By Peter Block240 PagesPublished by Jossey-Bass PublishersDate Published: 09/1999ISBN: 0787948039To read more or order this book click here .
Spreading the knowledge and the know-how
In this book, Block outlines the steps to take to contract and implement expertise. This is extremely useful, practical information any person in any career field can use. As Block points out time and again, we are all consultants at some point in our lives. The book is educational and practical. Most importantly, Block provides checklists and action-spurring suggestions designed to speed readers toward flawless consulting.

"Managing the relationship is essential to good implementation," Block says. "Most failures are not the failures of good work. It's violated expectations. Especially with IT, people have expectations—unrealistic expectations—that the world can be transformed overnight. All they have to do is press the 'on' button. It's hard for IT people to back up to the beginning.” Because of that, “IT people are not very good at teaching to the pace of the student.”

"The real challenge is to have people build the capacity to solve their own problems after you're gone," Block says. "The help button doesn't help. If the user knew enough to use the help button, she would."

Getting personal
Block’s experience with the IT world began in the 1970s when he worked as a consultant to the information services department at Exxon. Block’s information services manager was frustrated because more than half his suggestions were never implemented. Block claims that this situation made him see that successful consulting was more than providing a right answer. Much more personal interaction was needed.

Ironically, Block says the "golden" people in the IT community who do have technical skills and the demonstrated ability to deal with people are placed into management roles within the enterprise. He says every IT person has "people skills" but they are hesitant to use those abilities.

"There's always a social component to the technology that is under-appreciated, under-valued... Each technical person has the capacity once they know [that dealing with people is] part of their job. They don't have faith in their own ability. They've grown up in a family, been to school. It's not like they were born in a cubicle," Block says. "They just don't have faith in their own capacity, so they live the illusion that they can be of service without spending time on relationships."

The psychology behind the book
Flawless Consulting seems less about how to consult and more about communication. But why are these processes tied to the perceptive nature of Gestalt psychology?

"That was my portal into these ideas. When I wrote the book, I was an engineer and finance person trying to understand things you're kind of blind to," Block says. In this case, it was inter-personal relationships. He says that by examining and using "that piece of psychology, that was very pragmatic. That was the part that said analyzing and intellectualizing are a waste of time. How are you feeling and what do you want? That was a compelling thought to me."

Seconds, anyone?
Block was shocked at the success the first edition of his book found in 1981. Why not write a second edition? "I'd been hearing that [question] for about 10 years," Block answers. And eventually, Block found that he had more to say on the subject and the second edition was born.

What has changed significantly since Flawless Consulting was first published? "Everybody now has to be a consultant," Block says. There is also less resistance to his message about interpersonal communications as a key factor in flawless consulting. "People's consciousness about relationships is higher."

Block now sees IT staffs leading all departments within corporations toward changing staff functions. "They know they can no longer survive solely in expert mode," he says.
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