Consulting Maxims for Co-creating Sustainable Futures

This article provides practical insights and experiences on universal consulting maxims for co-creating sustainable futures. For many years, Western cultural and educational traditions led to a view that consultants are experts and solution-providers. In recent years, this mind-set has shifted towards more collaborative and transformational approaches, especially amongst Western Organisation Development (‘OD’) practitioners, and those senior leaders interested in transforming their organisations. In the experience of the authors, the perception of the consultant as an expert solution-provider continues to linger, particularly in Africa and the Middle-East. Using case studies from our OD consulting practices, the authors emphasise practical techniques for transformational consulting during unsettled times, and illustrate the universality of a more collaborative and transformational approach to address organisation issues world-wide. The distinctive qualities evident in these maxims include collaborative engagement and co-creation of interventions with people in the client-system, attention to inquiry and effective engagement, amplifying human development and participation and, finally, systems thinking. The article seeks to provide insights that help consultants and organisations to see more clearly and implement practical approaches to complex and ‘wicked’ situations in order to harness the expansive world of possibilities. The article’s submissions are founded on the fundamentals of OD, particularly behavioural science knowledge, and the OD field’s dual identity, premises, pillars and values. These apply widely in all contexts, drawing upon such theories and practice areas as Otto Scharmer’s ‘Theory U’, Gestalt OD, systems thinking, process consulting, and consulting with integrity. The authors posit that consultants see the pressing need of all organisations - private, public and third-sector, multinationals and SMEs - for professional help. The consulting space is fast expanding. Now the challenge is to influence clients to experience the value of transformational and collaborative approaches, and work with us in partnership rather than expecting expert solutions. What can we, as consultants, do to help? What are some of the fundamental principles that guide us in helping client-systems create sustainable futures for themselves in these turbulent times?

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