Continuing to bash the consultant model

I’m currently on a bit of a wave with bashing the consultant model of change, i.e. a model by which an “expert” from outside comes into a context performs or directs the performance of some analysis and evaluation of the context and then, drawing on their vast knowledge, recommends some ways forward. I started my “bashing wave” in a post comparing this model with the “fat smoker” problem (telling them what they already know isn’t sufficient to create change) and then continued with this inspiration from Dilbert.

Aside – Dilbert’s latest contribution

Which reminds more of the SNAFU principle.

Back to the consultants

The real reason for this post was to save this quote for later purposes. It’s talking about professional development around ICTs in education and the facilitators (i.e. consultants)

Facilitators however can pay
too much attention to analysis and recommendations and not enough to the complexity of translating these into actions. (Watson, 2006)

The quote is part of a section title “The problematic of the teacher” which resides in a broader section titled “Enduring issues”. The other enduring issues are: understanding learning; learning about or learning with; and, a technocentric enthusiasm.

Some other quotes from the section on those problematic teachers

Beynon and Mackay (1992, 1993) reflect that introducing ICTs into teaching create a number of tensions that professional development does not necessarily resolve. I have myself noted the dichotomy of purpose in rationales for using technology that leaves teachers unconvinced (Watson, 2001); and that those who don’t use ICT do so because it resonates with their personal beliefs and professional philosophy of teaching (Watson, 1993). And yet much professional development for using ICT in education leaves the participants feeling that training has been done to them rather than with them (Burstow, 2006)

And there is the following one, which really resonates with the local context and some recent discussions

Research such as that reported by Gross, Giacquinta, and Berstein (1971) indicated that there was no resistance to planned change on the part of teachers. On the contrary, they were receptive to educational innovation, but the strategies for implementation were deficient in two respects—failure to identify and bring into the open various difficulties teachers were liable to encounter in their implementation effects, and failure to establish and use feedback mechanisms to uncover barriers that arose during the period of attempted implementation. (Watson, 2006)

Note the date on that reference 1971. That’s 38 years ago, and yet I would suggest that there are still institutions that have implementation strategies that have these same two deficiencies. I would go further to suggest that those same organisations, when questioned about these deficiencies, respond with typical model 1 behaviours and defensive routines.

Especially when those implementation strategies rely on specialised project managers to manage the implementation. Such project managers suffer exactly the same flaws as consultants and MBAs – emphasis on objectified knowledge and processes over context. An emphasis that leads to the above deficiencies, an increased tendency to see the participants in the change as recalcitrant and lead to feelings from the participants of change being done to them, rather than with them.


Gross, N., Giacquinta, J. B., & Berstein, M. (1971). Implementing organisational innovations: A sociological analysis of planned educational change. New York: Basic.

Watson, D. (2006). “Understanding the relationship between ICT and education means exploring innovation and change.” Education and Information Technologies 11(3-4): 199-216.

One thought on “Continuing to bash the consultant model

  1. Pingback: The reason *insert label* talk about gurus is because they can’t spell the word charlatan « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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