The Helping side of SD-Logic


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One of the reasons I like the thinking that accompanies Service Dominant Logic is where it places organizations in relationship to the customer. It removes the organization from being an expert at the outset and focuses us on both giving and receiving help instead of the context of help is required. That mindset is a significant shift and enables us to build a stronger relationship at the outset.

Edgar Schein in his book, Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help, discusses the three fundamental roles that we assume when giving help: The helper can choose to be:

  1. An expert resource that provides information or services
  2. A doctor who diagnoses and prescribes
  3. A process consultant who focuses on building an equitable relationship and clarifies what kind of help is needed

In the book, he describes each role in significant detail but emphasize that at the outset of a relationship that we should adopt the process consultant role in order to do the following:

  • Remove the lack of knowledge inherent in the situation
  • Lessen the initial status differential
  • Identify what further role may be most suitable to the problem identified

He goes on to say that the essence of the process consultant role at the beginning of a helping relationship is to engage in humble inquiry, which so happens to be the name of his new book, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling.

Now, to most people in sales these seem like obvious statements. We forge a relationship before diagnosing and prescribing or providing our expert advice. However, in the digital world, the best relationship we seem to create is through a free subscription or trial that was found through Google Search. We assume that the client has correctly diagnosed the problem or that Google has. When we follow up are sales people taught to clarify what type of help is needed? As Schein says in the book about these roles:

The likelihood that someone is ready for an expert resource is dependent on whether the customer has…

  • Correctly diagnosed the problem?
  • Clearly communicated this?
  • Accurately assessed the capabilities of the provider?
  • Thought through the process of gathering information and/or implementation
  • Determined this is realistic and actionable information that can be utilized

The likelihood that someone is ready for the doctor model is dependent on whether the customer…

  • Is motivated to reveal accurate information
  • Will accept and believe the diagnosis and prescription
  • Understands and accepts the consequences of doing the diagnostic processes
  • Is able to make the changes that are recommended
  • Is willing to accept the increased amount dependency for aiding or hindering the solution

These are often the areas that we address at the outset. But should we? Even through digital efforts should we make more of an effort co-creating value before moving to the expert or doctor role? In the Service Dominant Logic world, we are participating with customers. We, often times, have assumed a process consultant role within the customers playground where our value is being demonstrated through use. They see us in action. Think of how an engagement with a process consultant transpires, from Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help:

  • Customers often do not know what is wrong and need help in diagnosing what their problems actually are. But only they own and live with the problem.
  • Customers often do not know what kinds of help consultants can give to them; they need guidance to know what kinds of help to seek
  • Must customers have a constructive intent to improve things, but need help in identifying what to improve and how to improve it.
  • Only customers know what will ultimately work in their situation
  • Unless customers learn to see problems for themselves and think through their own remedies, they will be less likely to implement the solution and less likely to learn how to fix such problems should they recur.
  • The ultimate function of help is to pass on diagnostic skills and intervene constructively so that customers are more able to continue to improve their situations on their own.

Through participation and identification of these areas, we create use. When it becomes unbalanced, it should assist us in offering more of our existing products and/or services.

When we view the role of a process consultant, as described by Schein, it seem this is the area of ambiguity that exists between free and paid consulting. It is area that most full time consultants struggle. We seldom get paid till we move to the role of expert or doctor. Viewing this definition does it help you get paid earlier or later in the consulting process?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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