Kindred Todd Case
Some companies value lateral open exchange of information and problem-solving where as others might have a top-down approach for problem-solving. The OD consultant must work with varying environments to be effective based on the companies’ individual needs. The OD professional is often times challenged with how best to develop a plan based on differing sets of values from the companies’. Another challenge facing the OD professional is that of ethics. When entering into a situation, the consultant and company have different values, needs, skills, and attributes on how to accomplish the change needed.
This can often times translate into role ambiguity or role conflict that is like being in limbo about who is responsible for which tasks. Ethical dilemmas begin to surface once this occurs. Whether it be misrepresentation, misuse of data, coercion, value and goal conflict, or technical ineptness, the OD professional falls into a trap. The innate need to want to help, the ego of the consultant, and the potential pressure from the consulting company directors, may all play a role in sometimes the consultant falling into an ethical dilemma.
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The Kindred Todd case did not articulate the exact skills and attributes of both sides; company or the consultant. Their values may very much be different and thus could enter the two sides into role conflict or role ambiguity. In terms of the Kindred Todd case, there were two ethical violations in my opinion. The first ethical violation is misrepresentation. Misrepresentation occurs when one or both parties work under a false pretense that a certain solution will work for the given situation.
In this particular case, the president of the consulting firm, Larry Stepchuck, articulated to Kindred Todd that the oil and gas company was in need of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and needed to deal with long-range planning issues. During her first meeting with the senior management team, Ms Todd was inundated with questions about CQI. The company was already working towards the technical aspects of the process and wanted to know exact timelines for results. They even went as far as to ask how to form teams to identify areas of improvement using CQI.
When Ms Todd met with Mr Stepchuck afterwards, he stated that the company really doesn’t know what they want. He then stated that “CQI” was a buzzword that drove the companies’ desire to initiate such a process. This type of ethical dilemma often occurs in the entering and contracting stages of change. The entering stage is vital for an external consultant to begin building trust and relationships with the client. As Ms Todd begins to build trust, she must view the issue as a whole and not move forward with what she was told by Mr Stepchuck.
The second ethical violation deals with technical ineptness. After meeting with the company, Ms Todd told Mr Stepchuck that she was not qualified to initiate a CQI change and that he should consider using a different consultant. Mr Stepchuck’s response was for Ms Todd to continue as the subject matter expert no matter the qualifications. The oil and gas company is under the impression that CQI will fix their problems and Ms Todd is the expert who will guide them through the process. It seems that a thorough diagnosis of the problem was not made.
The decision to move forward with CQI was made by the president of the consulting firm and was based on a meeting for a few hours with the client. Given the difficulty of the situation, Ms Todd was able to take a step back and affirm the company’s questions as good ones. This demonstrated her understanding to make the team feel engaged, important, and vital to the process. She then retargeted the focus back to the importance of the long-range goals and strategies of the firm by listening to the history of the organization.
She was able to gather data on the company by reviewing the financial reports, trends in the industry, and issues the company faces. Her goal now was to probe for further information on the history, feedback from the management team on the issues, and to actively listen. She displayed emotional intelligence by not letting her initial shock of being sold as a CQI expert take over her discussion with the client. She was able to calmly navigate through effectively. By actively listening to the senior management team, Ms Todd demonstrated interpersonal skills such that the president of the oil and gas company was impressed with her.
An important aspect of the case was that Ms Todd learned of the team’s desire for implementation of CQI that she quickly identified, in her mind, that she was not an expert. As a consultant it is important to understand one’s abilities to diagnose and implement a planned change while removing bias in the diagnosis based on previous experiences. Where Ms Todd failed was to address that perhaps CQI was not the only solution. Overall, I believe Ms Todd handled the initial meeting appropriately with regards to listening to the senior management team’s needs and issues for the long-range goals and strategies.
It is critical to accurately diagnose the change needed for the company. I feel that a single meeting cannot provide such a vital diagnosis. In addition to meeting with the senior management team, I would ask to meet with department heads within the organization to assess their belief in the company, stresses, and vision for long-range success. In my opinion, I would speak to as many individuals within the company as possible to gather as much information and data on the current situation and the desired future. What is also important is to understand the client has been sold CQI.
There is an expectation from the client’s side that CQI will be implemented and a timeline of results will be initiated. My thought would be just that of Ms Todd’s in that I would inquire about the company’s history. I would also ask what previous steps have been taken to identify the change needed and how the company came to the conclusion of long-range goals being changed. Next, I would continue to work with the senior management team to identify the real change needed and work towards the appropriate diagnosis. By doing so, the level of dependency will be mitigated.
Although the company feels strongly about CQI, it would be my responsibility to be transparent that there may be other avenues that may be better suited for the planned change based on the diagnosis. It is important to not minimize their desire for CQI even though they may not understand what it means or entails. The value of the OD practitioner is to identify the emotional and psychological desires and needs of the client, affirm the emotions, and develop a clear understanding of a team approach. The team approach of consultant and client will remove a high level of dependency as well.
I believe it to be important to inform them that while CQI may be a solution, it is in our best interest to vet all options to make sure we are not leaving anything on the table that may affect long-range goals for the company. Much like with any change, it is vital to attain buy-in from the individuals participating in the change. With a top-down approach, the client must be willing to emulate the planned change throughout each interaction with members of the organization in the effort to build the desire to execute the change overall. In summary, management must become the planned change.