Consultant’s Journey

Consultant's Journey: A Dance of Work and SpiritConsultant’s Journey: A Dance of Work and Spirit by Roger Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been intending to read this book for about fifteen years following a friend’s recommendation. I got hold of a second hand copy recently and it was well worth the belated purchase. In fact, I wish I had read it much earlier in my consulting career. Roger Harrison’s odyssey – as has been mentioned in many other reviews – parallels the development of OD up to the time of writing in 1995. Whilst many books on OD and management quickly go out of date, it is incredible how relevant and indeed prescient much of this book is. It is also striking how much of his personal life Harrison is willing to share as he describes his journey as a consultant and as a husband, father, colleague, lover, disciple and human being. Whilst this level of disclosure may be common now (even in some ‘professional’ books), I imagine when ‘Consultant’s Journey’ was published in 1995 it was pretty unusual – but entirely consistent with the integrated and self-reflective approach to work and life that is Harrison’s practice hallmark. Harrison’s often forensic analysis of his motives, ambitions, flaws, fluctuations in self-confidence and achievements is stimulating, and reassuringly honest. For me, reading the book was an emotional rollercoaster as Harrison’s disclosures and insights prompted me to recall some of my own consultancy successes, failures and occasional disasters and to view them in a new light. There is simply so much to stimulate and challenge OD practitioners in this book that it is difficult to know where to start. For me the most revelatory aspect of the Consultant’s Journey is how many conceptual models in OD and training practice have their roots in Harrison’s work. He is quick to admit that many of ‘his’ ideas were not completely original (but how many ideas really are original?) – but in my view Harrison’s significant contribution to the OD field has been in bringing together thinking from diverse disciplines, adding his own insights and then developing practical and useful models and frameworks for others to use.

In an accompanying book of papers (The Collected Papers of Roger Harrison) the author quotes Paramhansa Yogananda who is reputed to have said “Read for one hour; write for two; meditate for three”. Harrison goes on to say “I believe that all, or almost all learning is remembering in the sense of bringing forth what is already latent in us and giving it new forms appropriate in the moment. If that is true, then a major purpose of reading is to stimulate one’s own mental, emotional, or creative processes. One reads to catalyse remembering, and a little of the catalyst goes a long way.” Harrison may not have published much but I will be benefitting from his two book legacy for a long time. I only wish I had listened to my friend Liz Goold fifteen years ago!

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One thought on “Consultant’s Journey

  1. Bruce, nice that you ‘dare’ to admit that your insight emerged following a suggestion or advice of fifteen years ago. It shows how long it can take before your mind ‘opens up’. The frankness of your review and the value that you see in the book are very complementary and stimulating.
    The quote from Harrison on the power of reflection links very directly to work by Chene Swart on ‘Re-authoring the World’ a wonderful approach to slow thinking, artful exploration and valuing the treasures of your (own) past’ for the future.

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