Edgar Schein: Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Schein is a well-established and prolific researcher and consultant on organizational learning, culture, and development; process consultation; and career dynamics. He has consulted for major corporations such as Apple, General Foods, and Citibank. Schein has authored several books, including The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (Jossey-Bass, 1999), and most recently, Helping: How to Give, Offer, and Receive Help (Berrett-Koehler, 2009), and the 4th edition of Organizational Culture and Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2010). In 2000, Schein was honored with ASTD's Lifetime Achievement Award in Workplace Learning and Performance.

Q | COULD YOU BRIEFLY EXPLAIN PROCESS CONSULTATION?

I realized that what I was doing as a consultant was facilitating the process of problem solving in individuals, groups, and larger units by being there and seeing what they needed, and supplying the missing functions. I came to call that "process consultation" because it dealt with the human and group processes rather than the content of what the people were working on.

That distinction is still not clear to people that the consultant doesn't have to be an expert in the client's content. But the consultant has to be very good at managing the relationship, sensing where the client is, and helping in a way that engages the client's problem, rather than displaying the consultant's expertise.

As I argue in Helping, you have to make sure the client feels okay about the whole process because asking for help in the social order of things puts you down. We live in a culture in which being on top of your job is considered the norm. If I'm a manager and I need help, that puts me in a subordinate, vulnerable position. The consultant needs to engage in humble inquiry and start with humility. That makes the client feel better and gives the consultant better information on what is needed.

Q | HOW ARE EMPLOYEE MOTIVATION AND ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE LINKED? WHAT ARE WAYS IN WHICH LEADERS CAN EFFECTIVELY MANAGE CHANGE?

When managers say, "I want to create a culture of motivation or commitment," that indicates to me that they don't understand culture. Culture is not something that you create or want. Culture is the residue of your history so far.

If your organization has been an autocratic, low-trust organization, how you'd change that is by very slowly identifying real problems and new behaviors, train people in some of the new behaviors, and if the business problems get solved, then the employees begin to internalize it, and eventually they believe that it's a good way to work. …