What is advice

Advice: definition, forms, procedure and effect

Unexpectedly, I was able to have an exciting conversation with Herbert Salzmann from Trigon about the effectiveness of advice. The starting point of the conversation was the shared doubt about the effectiveness of traditional consulting processes. Especially for executives as clients of consulting, it is worth taking a look behind the scenes of the consulting.

What is counseling?

Based on Dr. Wolfgang Looss means advice, anyone to anything to advise.

Anybody can be an individual. Personal advice to people in the world of work is called coaching. But anyone can also be a group or a team. Team consulting or team development are common terms. But anyone can also be an organization. In this case we speak of organizational consulting.

Anything is a problem perceived by the client. According to Klaus Mücke, one problem is an actual / target deviation. It takes energy to maintain the feeling of deviation. This energy can come from inside or outside. From the inside, a question can be the reason for advice, e.g. I don't know what to do next. From the outside, it can be a fictitious target, such as New Work or Agility. In this context, Looss speaks of a carrier film for advice.

How does advice work?

Advice can be on two ways respectively.

If there is a clear answer to the client's question it takes an expert to help one To give advice. The expert has a supply of advice and is happy to give it for a fee in the consultation. Also called specialist advice or advising. Even better if the expert has created the problem himself or has developed target ideas for the customer. Then the consultant can give the client tailor-made advice. Unfortunately, only a few consultants are allowed to found their own religion, such as Jeff Sutherland with SCRUM. Thankfully, there is still enough work for his agility apostles.

If there is no clear answer to the client's question it needs an expert in the technology of the client Council creation. Because there is no supply, a new council must first be created. Also called process consulting or counseling. This technology, understood as a craft, consists primarily of intelligent communication. By reintroducing communication into the gears, new options for the individual, the team or the organization are to be created and selected. The consultant does not care what the options look like. Anything else would be an ideology or religion, which brings us back to advice.

Ed Schein differentiates even further and also cites the “doctor-patient model”, in which the client also outsources the diagnosis of the problem before advice can be given. There are innumerable treatises on integrating the two types of counseling, such as complementary counseling, which I will not go into further here.

How does advice work?

Regardless of the manufacturing process of the Rat commodity, each advisory guild has its own ideas of how to be effective. Often these maps are hidden and even the actors involved are not aware of their access to the so-called intervention. In my perception there is three intervention approacheswho dumbbell along the decision premises according to Luhmann.

Consultant guild 1, the management, expert or specialist consultants, is predominantly about the decision parameter strategy effective. Niklas Luhmann speaks of decision-making programs and by that means the criteria according to which decisions must be made in the organization. What do we do? What are we not doing Motto: As a problem-solving expert, I tell you through a rational analysis and concept how the problem can be solved top-down using guidelines and rules.

Consultant guild 2, the organizational developers, are primarily concerned with the decision parameters Culture or behavior of employees effective. Luhmann speaks of staff and means which people in the organization can fill which position, but also the exchange with one another. Motto: As a communication expert, I design processes that aim to change employees' attitudes and behavior patterns in order to solve the problem bottom-up.

Consultant guild 3, the systemic consultants, are mainly about the decision parameters Structure or organization effective. Luhmann speaks of communication channels and means who in the organization can turn to whom and to whom tasks can be given. Motto: As an organizational expert, I design structures in order to disrupt the problem by changing communication channels, according to Simon, or to stimulate new solutions.

In practice, working on the decision premises is never selective. Of course, a management consultant will also talk about structures. Of course, a systemic advisor will use the word culture. But that's not really that important. Holistic corporate development always requires work on all decision-making premises. The maps that guide the action are important.

What is the problem?

To put the words of Exner & Exner in your mouth, 80% fits anyway. 20% require different answers. It doesn't matter whether it is 20% or more, they certainly consist of many points. However, I would like to focus on the action-guiding maps mentioned and thus on the lack of connectivity.

The repeatedly invoked mantra of shorter planning horizons leads consultants to want to be everything for everyone. Today strategy in the management, tomorrow specialist advisor for CRM, the day after tomorrow private couple counseling. The connectivity is not checked by consultants (and clients). Does my map match the problem or do I put my map over the problem?

It's not for nothing that old master Looss advises you to choose with whom you can make yourself sufficiently similar. In order not to be everything for everyone, a strict selection of industry and threshold is required. A full order book is the best quality assurance there can be.


Not only for consultants, but also for their customers, it is worth asking whether the pot fits the lid. If the maps that guide the action are not correct, you get a cultural process for a yield problem. That this supposed solution is perceived as theater on the stage of the organization should not surprise anyone. After all, counseling is about absorbing the uncertainty that comes with every change. A play * can also contribute to this, and whether it really solves the underlying problem is at least questionable.

Dr. Patrick Fritz

* Ed Schein: “Helping is a performing art that has more in common with improvisational theater than with formal drama.

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Category: LeadershipTags: Advice, advice definition, advice and coaching, advice and consulting, advice talk, systemic advice, what does advice mean