Flavor of The Month Part II

In my first article in this series I asked whether we facilitators might be a part of the “flavor of the month” syndrome that I’ve heard reported in company after company. Paul from Ottawa commented (thank you Paul):

“Facilitators or clients who expect change to occur overnight or without sustained efforts are misguided and doomed to failure. Change in organizations takes time, care, strategic thinking and commitment.”

I agree with this statement in general, and at the same time my reaction is “So, what’s next?” By this I mean, what do you (all of you readers, not just Paul) think are the reasons for this? What is it that you find yourself facilitating your clients in doing when you are helping them achieve the “small successes” that Paul also points to as needed for change to occur?

I think the point of Chris Argyris’ work in this respect is that we tend to overlook the unconscious defensive routines that we and our clients carry around with us, and that this is a major factor in the flavor of the month syndrome. We learn a new way of doing things or a skill set. Then, when we run into a challenging or embarrassing situation we automatically go back to our defensive routines to protect ourselves and others.

I agree with this view point. Some of the symptoms I’ve noticed are:

  • People walk out of a meeting or workshop excited and energized and six weeks later are lost in fighting fires or are talking about “great workshop, we just have to be realistic”.
  • People button hole the facilitator to gently triangulate with them about one or more other participants.
  • People talk in generalities about what “you” do in a particular situation rather than using their actual experience in their workplace.

What is your experience? Do you see these or other symptoms? What do you make of them? What do you do about them, if anything? I think we facilitators are responsible for thinking about these issues and working out ways of addressing them. What do you think?


Sterling Newberry

Sterling Newberry is a Certified Professional Facilitator by the International Association of Facilitators, and has a BA in Sociology from Dickinson College, and a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution from John F. Kennedy University. He believes that organizations are living organisms, that each person plays a vital role in the… MORE >

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