A general purpose POVSpace for consultants

Philip Morgan

Thus far we've been looking at how point of view relates to the tabs vs. spaces debate.

There are 3 places you can stand (points of view) in relationship to the tabs/spaces topic:

I like calling that triangle the POVSpace. It's a simplified representation of how where you stand effects what you see.

That diagram uses the Earth's moon to symbolize the topic in question. That's because where you stand in the space around the moon really effects what you see when you look at the moon.

If you're standing on Earth, you see a certain view of the moon. If you were standing on Mars at the right moment, you'd see the "back side" of the moon, which would be a completely different view of the same object/topic.

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I spend a lot of time and brain cycles studying self-made experts, specifically those that monetize their expertise through consulting work.

For these folks, the tabs/spaces POVSpace doesn't work because consultants must always occupy the "What's best for the client?" point of view. If they don't, they won't thrive as a consultant.

There is a seeming exception here, of course. If the client is a dev team or IT department within an org, and the consultant has been hired to help them improve some software development-related practice, then you could argue that consultant is operating from the "What's best for the dev team?" perspective and is being effective as a consultant. You could also argue that in this case the "What's best for the dev team?" and "What's best for the client?" perspectives have collapsed into each other and they're functionally the same because the dev team is your client, and so I think I'm still correct in saying the "What's best for the client?" point of view is the only one that ultimately works for a consultant.

That's why we need a different POVSpace map for consultants. One that helps us understand how consultants (and trainers or authorities or... you) might occupy different standpoints as they provide guidance on the same topic.

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I'll share with you here my working draft of a POVSpace for consultants. I'll start at the level of text before moving on to a visual representation because I think it'll make more sense that way. And I'll remind you this work is based heavily on the pioneering thinking that Bob Lalasz is doing in this area.

There seem to be 4 questions that define the consultant POVSpace:

  1. What is the ultmate goal of your work with clients?
  2. How do you support/argue the content of your point of view?
  3. How do clients perceive your social status?
  4. In what way do you help your clients change?

Let's look at those 4 questions as 4 spectra; 4 axes of differentiation in the POVSpace:

  1. Goal: You're either trying to help clients fundamentally transform something, or you're trying to help them optimize something they're already doing.
  2. Argument: You're either supporting/arguing for your perspective on things from objective data or from personal experience/ideals.
  3. Status: You're either a pedigreed insider, or you're an outsider who has specialized and cultivated relevant expertise.
  4. Change Style: You're either helping your clients push disruptive dramatic change, or you're pursuing a more evolutionary, gentle approach to change.

These are spectrums, not binary mutually exclusive categories. You might be focused on optimization consulting, but occasionally have a client or project that looks more like fundamental transformation. To make things simple, I tend to talk about these spectra like they're either/or phenomena, but in reality they are much more subtle than that.

The Goal and Change Style spectra might seem to be the same thing. They're not. My business is definitely focused on helping clients fundamentally transform something (helping implementors become advisors), but my change style is the more evolutionary, gentle approach. In fact, I'd argue, that particular transformation is better enabled by an evolutionary change style than a forceful, disruptive style. On the other hand, here's what the forceful, disruptive change style looks like when deployed in service of the same transformation:

There are plenty of topics where both Alan Weiss and I have something to say. Why does he come across so differently from me on those topics? Why do some folks vibe with his advice and not mine?

Because of point of view. We are speaking, sometimes, to the same topic but from different places in the POVSpace. We have different perspectives. Different standpoints.

Is one better than the other? See my previous email about this, but in short, no. The world is a big place teeming with folks who are hungry for some non-bullshit guidance on making the implementor to advisor transition.

Some need a pedigreed insider operating from personal experience using a disruptive change style to help them make that transition.

And some need a specialized outsider operating from personal experience buttressed with data using a supportive change style to help them make the transition.

And even better, I can refer folks to Alan when they need an approach like his. And Alan can not refer folks to me because he's never heard of me and even if he had his well-nourished ego woudn't consider any other approach valid.

Wait, did I just say that out loud? :)

I'm 60% kidding and 40% trying to make a point about point of view.

To be clear, I don't know Alan Weiss personally, but my observation is that Alan is coming from the "pedigreed insider" perspective. That does two things:

  1. Gives him nearly instant credibility with clients/customers who also believe that you must be a pedigreed insider in order to be effective.
  2. Because pedigree operates in a somewhat tribal way, this predisposes him to devalue the work of non-pedigreed outsiders.

Neither of these is a problem or a shortcoming or a weakness. Unless! Unless Alan were confused about his own point of view and was trying to serve an audience that holds an incompatible point of view. He's not at all confused about this, though. In fact, his point of view selects for the kind of people who find themselves comfortable being in his audience. His point of view is a filter.

I don't think I've ever seen or read Alan Weiss specifically say "you must be a pedigreed insider to be successful as a consultant". If he did, that would be the obvious content of his point of view. However the subtext that you must be a pedigreed insider to be successful as a consultant is dripping from almost everything he says. That's the context of his point of view -- the place he stands -- heavily influencing the content.

The content of your point of view is almost always a product of the context; of where you stand.

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We can visually represent the consultant POVSpace in at least two ways. I've found two that are useful.

We can use a 2x2 matrix to represent what I think are the primary axes of differentiation: Goal and Argument, and then we can use color and line style to represent the secondary axes of Status and Change Style. This is useful for examining a single consultant's point of view.

We can also use a "Blue Ocean Strategy" strategy canvas. This is useful for comparing multiple consultants points of view.

This email is long, so I'll cut it here and come back acha in the next email with some examples of mapping consultants you have probably heard of into this POVSpace.