Misperception Trap in Consulting Project

When reading about Schein’s ORJI cycle, I thought about situations where I’ve fallen into a misperception trap that resulted with an inappropriate response based upon incorrect data. In my role as an academic advisor, I misjudge a student’s academic ability because I see a a bad midterm grade. A lot of times, however, advisors don’t know the full story until the student comes in to meet us for the first time and tells us about other issues like mental health, family, or personal relationships that have affected their ability to successfully complete assignments. There’s always more to the story than what’s at face value. Therefore, I try not to judge my students based on what I see on a transcript. I’m reminded again of how important it is when consulting/advising to be aware of your biases. Or, as Schein likes to call them perceptual filters that determine how we interpret an event and respond.

In my role as consultant for this course, I continually find myself filtering data that was not what I “expected” or “anticipated” based on my prior experience with my clients. I play a unique role as consultant because I’m close colleagues with my clients already. I’ve collaborated with both Claire and Doug for over four years doing events like new student orientation programming. They also come and present to my classes I teach to discuss the importance of getting engaged at the School of Business. I fall into the misperception trap of not seeing some of the gaps or areas for improvement when working with these people for so long. I feel as though this project has been a great way for me to be aware of my biases toward that office. I think Claire and Doug are great people and therefore see only the great things they do. The results of the student survey opened my eyes to issues that I never knew existed. I have to say I was surprised at the lack of communication between student organizations and the Office of Student and Alumni engagement.  My own bias toward Doug and Claire led me to assume that I thought there were great communication channels in place already. I definitely think this project has allowed me to see the inevitable flaws/challenges that every office faces. I am impressed that Doug and Claire are aware of the issue, and am thankful they brought it to my team for us to help them. I don’t want to discount all the amazing programs and events they do run well in that office. I just wanted this blog to be a reflection of how I need to continually access my ignorance. Schein states that “Accessing one’s ignorance by actively figuring out what one does not know is, in the end, one of the most important tools available” (Schein, 1999, pg. 98).

I’m even more appreciative that I get the opportunity to consult with a team. My team has helped me see things or ask questions that I normally wouldn’t have asked because I’ve assumed the office would have already done that. Because my team members are a true neutral party, they help me to use what Schein calls as systematic checking procedures where we are asking questions, using silence, and maintaining a spirit of inquiry (Schein, 1999, pg. 97-98). My team has helped me clarify the real problem in that office. I think this project would have been a lot harder had I done it alone and with people I already knew. I think internal consultants must have a harder time staying unbiased, which makes Schein’s recommendations for avoiding misperception traps all the more important.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Misperception Trap in Consulting Project

  1. MARY, I THINK WE COLLECTIVELY SHARE SOME OF THE SAME STRUGGLES. HOWEVER, WE TRUST ONE ANOTHER (ON OUR TEAM) AND WE ARE COLLECTIVELY OPEN TO PEER-FEEDBACK. THIS TOO IS A (IN-ACTION)DEVELOPMENTAL PROCESS THAT WE CAN APPLY TO CONSULTING RELATIONSHIPS. JUST WAS WE ARE OPEN AND RECEPTIVE TO PEER FEEDBACK, WE SHOULD EN-TURN ESTABLISH A CREATE TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR FUTURE CLIENTS; THAT WILL PROVIDE THEM THE SAME LEVEL OF TRUST, OPENNESS TO RECEIVE AND PROCESS OUR INFORMATION AS “HELPFUL”. AS USUALLY: GOOD STUFF MARY-RUTH. SB

  2. Agreed: This project would have been completely different and much more challenging without the help and support of our teammates. We all hear something a little different, even when we’re all sitting in on the same conversation. Being a part of a team has shined some light on what it must be like for our team of volunteers for the Women’s Leadership Council. Their foundation has to be built on effective communication and trust in one another! Sounds like your group had all that going on, and more! My husband always says, “teamwork makes the dream work!”

  3. Biases towards our students are easy to create and hard to shake. I have been guilty of that many times because one of my kids acted a certain way early in the semester or performed poorly on one of the first assessments. Due to these actions, I placed them in a certain box and made it mentally difficult for them to get out of it. I am aware of these actions on my part, yet it unfortunately occurred a few times every year. I think I’ve gotten better at it, but maybe I am just actually forming an affirmative bias towards myself. I guess the proof will have to be in the pudding going forward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s