Choreographing Consulting
Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:30AM
JP Harris in Consulting, choreography, dance, implementation method, methodology

Early in my consulting career, I found myself crafting new methods and building methodologies.  This has continued over the years as I’ve moved from one consultancy to another, between technologies and various types of projects.  Throughout, I’ve found myself diving deep into method; never being satisfied with what was there, always looking for a better way to describe the tasks, milestones, and deliverables that made up my approach to a project or a type of work.

With practice my ability to craft methodology has gotten better.  Describing a method has become a familiar process.  I’ve built a library of past work which I’ll find myself pulling from.  With each new project experience, I’ll find myself inventing, innovating, and finding better ways to do things.  Clearly I have a knack for this.  At first blush one might say I have a talent; a gift for this sort of thing.  In fact, describing method is a skill based in dance and choreography, a product of my dance practice.

The choreographer thinks about actions and movement in a continuum.  As he builds the dance he is collecting groups of movements into dance phrases, stringing them together, and building the end-to-end performance.  The choreographer thinks about presentation, positioning, structure, message, appearance, and the experience of the audience that is viewing his piece.  He is collaborating with his dancers, his costume designers, lighting technicians, and musicians.  And, he is thinking about the space he is performing in, the shape of the stage or room, and the positioning of the dancer vis-à-vis the audience.

The choreographer is thinking about all of these things and responding to them as he crafts his dance.  As he builds his dance and thinks about how one movement leads to another, he is responding to the experience of the dancers, adapting to them, and letting them influence his work.  The choreographer responds to how he expects his audience to react to the piece; this influences the staging of the work and the movement phrases he selects.

The actions the choreographer strings together to create his dance is no different than the tasks that must be shaped into stages of work, as the approach to a project, or the underlying method for a body of work.  In shaping method, the consultant responds to and thinks about the experience of the client (audience).  This shapes how the tasks are performed and the experience the client is provided.  It influences the deliverables we produce.

Always, when I’m shaping a new project approach, the interaction of the consultants to the client, the consultants to each other, and the client’s various constituencies come into play.  The questions: How can we string our actions together to gain the best result?  What is the choreography we will dance as we move through our project, together?  How do I present the body of our work in a way that makes it most accessible, interesting, engaging, and transformative?

My years of dance training, rehearsing, performing, collaborating, teaching, and choreographing brought with it a set of skills that have given me the ability to create consulting methods and practices that describe how to best move through a consulting project and achieve the desired result.  Through all of this the actions and how they are experienced has been the driver for my body of work.  The dance skills I developed have made me into a choreographer of consulting; a creator of method.

Article originally appeared on onECM Practice - Consulting as a Performing Art (
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