Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Power of Observation: Applying the Heisenberg Principle to Consulting

January 31st, 2012

I firmly believe in the power of external consulting to cause change in companies. I say that from experience, but can explain it with a scientific principle. It is the Heisenberg principle of the observer effect–the impact that an observer has on the observed.
According to Wikipedia, “The observer effect …, relates to the influence the observer has on a system… This means that the type of measurement that we do on the system affects the end state of the system.”
Consultants are obvious observers, newly and consciously introduced into the enterprise eco-system by management. Consultants have an immediate, sometimes visceral impact, on the organizations that deploy them . The question is, how can the impact be leveraged for best effect?
The best clients leverage the presence that consultants have to best effect. They communicate proactively about the pending engagement with the key players in their company. They show their organization that they are serious and willing to commit resources.
The best consultants harness their presence to get information and connect with the key players. They channel positive energy and try to use it to uncover barriers. As they absorb more information, they begin to test hypotheses about how to orchestrate the changes needed, whether process or organizational.
The best results bring the observed into a new state, one that is more cohesive, productive, and committed to achieving common goals. The strength of the Heisenberg principle, and consulting in general, is in leveraging the impact made to organizations by observers.

(first published on "From the Whiteboard" blog

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