The Prophet Role LO20642

Doug Merchant (
Fri, 12 Feb 1999 01:06:10 -0500

Replying to LO20610 --

>I've taken this completely out of context, but it's a good segue into
>another subject, the role of the prophet in organizations.
> My thesis, so far, is as follows:
>> The prophet role involves seeing things that others tend to miss, or are
>> not visible in the normal course of events. (snip)

>>... Difficulties in the consultant-client relationship arise when the
>> consultant's input conflicts with the client's views. Internal
>> consultants are generally immersed in the organization's social and
>> political networks, and are expected to follow chains of command; when
>> they provide input contrary to the leaders' views, they may be seen as
>> rocking the boat and thereby lose credibility. External consultants may
>> or may not experience this form of conflict.

I suspect a more fundamental force is at play:

"Most managers, aware of their own inadequacy in dealing with the more
esoteric topics of management theory, are as ready as the primitive
tribesman to ascribe superior power to strangers - privately if not
publicly. Most bosses will assume that outside specialists command more
powerful medicine than their own subordinates, for no other reason than
that they are from the outside. The mechanism is best seen in action when
a consultant is invited to join a company full-time. It is rarely more
than six months before his new superiors are again feeling a nagging need
for 'outside' advice. Their vague and ill-defined sense of something
missing is an infallible indicator that a magicroreligious principle is

"Finally, the more distant the origin of the consultant, the stronger
his medicine is supposed to be. Any consultant is more powerful than
one's own staff. An American consultant working in Europe (or a
European in America) is more powerful than his native -born rivals. An
American who is specially flown in is more powerful still. ...All
magicoreligious systems have the same law. Foreign magic is mysterious
and therefore more powerful than the domestic variety."
--- Managers and Magic, by Graham Cleverley, 1973, E.P. Dutton & Co.,

Doug Merchant
Currently On Career Sabbatical


"Doug Merchant" <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>