Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

COLLABORATE | Engagement Impact

Yesterday, I attended an IAP2 masterclass titled Increasing Engagement Value and Impact. The focus of the masterclass was ‘engagement impact’ and it sought to direct (or inspire) practitioners to lead change in practice and imprint actions for change. The masterclass facilitator, Anne Pattillo, stressed that the process starts with changing the way we think and communicate about engagement, particularly in or with our organisations. The statements were compelling and convincing as Pattillo outlined the need for a business focussed case for engagement.

That is, engagement needs to be embedded in both organisational strategy and practice. Engagement needs to be embedded; it needs to improve and diversify. For me, it evoked one of my favourite Peter Drucker statements: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. While this proposition is contestable, we take it to mean that without values and all the tacit and overt aspects of organisational knowledge and relationships, strategy can only do so much.  Harbinger’s approach to planning and development is grounded in such ideas. From a decision maker’s point of view, the value of engagement is not always recognisable – especially where costs are involved – and there is a need to change the conversation to focus on business, strategy and impact not just engagement. This changed conversation, ultimately, changes the relationship and understanding between consultant and client.

I was also reminded of Peter Block’s book Flawless Consulting. It’s been some time since I’ve read this and it was very influential in our design of our ethos, working process and methodologies. When we considered our approach, after some years working in a loose freelancing mode, we realised that the collaborative approach was much more dynamic, valuable and relevant for communities and organisations. Since then, we’ve had heartening successes working collaboratively in partnership with our clients and their stakeholders. This means we solve problems, create vision or address issues together driven by the engagement promise of the client and usually with a view to building capacity and encouraging organisational learning. The process is inherently collaborative and attentive to co-creation, impact and co-design. It’s here, we believe, that there is great potential for leading practice and changing practice in ways that enhance business performance and outcomes.


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