Temptations, Risks and Limits of the Profession

Erik de Haan
Wiley, Chichester, 2006.


The history of consulting begins with the first 'intervention' of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and today's consultants have just as dubious a reputation. Consulting is constantly accompanied by temptations and risks. The temptations include flattery, over-assessment of one's own abilities, and sarcasm, while   the risks include responsibility without authority, uncertainty about one's own contribution, and loss of control. Yet consulting begins with the right state of mind. And Fearless Consulting clearly demonstrates that, in spite of the many risks and temptations, if you first fully understand your intention as a consultant you will be equipped to approach your clients boldly, confidently and without fear of failure.

Drawing on inspirations from diverse sources including history, tragedy, philosophy and of course consultants themselves, Erik de Haan asks you to think about what it means to be a consultant and the dilemmas it can entail. He then offers guidance on how to formulate your own views about the nature of the profession, and choose your own approach from a toolkit of specific intervention models and practical methodologies.

Intellectual and inspirational in equal measure, Fearless Consulting is essential reading for anyone who regularly consults to others and wants to know more about this fascinating profession.

"Erik de Haan is one of the most imaginative voices in charting the temptations, risks and challenges of organizational consultancy. His ability to get one reflecting afresh on 'consultancy matters' is as exemplary as it is, itself, 'fearless'."

David Armstrong,Principal Consultant, The Tavistock Consultancy Service

"A thoughtful and finely written guide... It is a pleasure to see a book that does not oversimplify the world, yet offers a framework that can be instantly and powerfully used to make the world a better place and the consultant a better person."

Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting

"Erik de Haan is one of the most exciting writers of a new wave in organisation development. I was delighted to find that this book successfully brings together clarity and depth of writing."

Peter Hawkins, Chairman of Bath Consultancy Group (from his Foreword to this book)

"An unusually insightful and literate book on consulting. Erik de Haan uses experiential learning theory and learning styles to allow consultants to identify their preferred consulting role and intervention approach. Every consultant can benefit from reading this work."

Professor David A. Kolb, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University

"A guide to consulting as it really is with all of the challenges, dilemmas and risks that consultants face on a daily basis. It provides a valuable resource for deepening our insight and understanding of the complexities of client/consultant relationships."

Ina Smith, Director of Consulting, Ashridge

  "An erudite and entertaining look at how thinkers from previous ages can inform the dilemmas and pitfalls that consultants face in their practice today."

Karen Welch, Development Executive, BBC

Table of Contents

Foreword 1

Foreword 2


Prologue: Characteristics of Consulting

1 Characteristics of the Entry

2 The Entry and Fearless Speech

Communicating advice
Four forms of argumentation
Forms of argumentation for consultants
The fearless consultant
Fearless speech under pressure

3 Characteristics of Joint Problem Formulation

4 Problem Formulation and Irony

Ambiguous communication
What is irony?
Two divine examples of irony
The ironic consultant
Irony as an instrument for change
Irony and the concept of fate

5 Characteristics of Intervening

6 Intervening and Power

Intervening means stepping in
The focus of interventions
The art of intervening
The powerless consultant

7 Characteristics of Consolidating

8 Consolidating and responsibility

The responsibility of the consultant
Why does anything come about?
Authority and responsibility
The non-responsible consultant

9 Characteristics of Departure and letting go

10 letting go and Tragic Consulting

The consultant as committed outsider
The chorus in Greek tragedy
The tragic consultant
What pleasure does a tragedy give?


Epilogue: Twenty Minutes in the life of a Consultant

The invitation
Observations prior to the conversation
The conversation as it took place
The conversation as it did not take place
Observations following the conversation
The follow-up conversation

Appendix A

Appendix B



You can order the book directly at Wiley