Birds or Fish? Internal and External Consultants

Sky and Water is a 1939 woodcut by Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Sky and Water is a 1939 woodcut by Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

By Kathleen Iverson

Sky and Water, by M.C. Escher is a tessellated image of birds changing to fish when they sink below the water line.  Depending on whether you see the background or foreground as dominant, you see either fish or birds at the water line.

To me, this image represents the relationship between internal and external learning consultants.  Like the birds and fish in Escher’s image, internal and external consultants are really one and the same, but have different environments.

Kathy Iverson is an associate professor in Roosevelt University's Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

Kathy Iverson is an associate professor in Roosevelt University’s Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

External consultants are the birds in the image, independent agents that swoop into organizations to provide a wide array of services in workplace learning and development.  They are contracted as needed to provide such services as assessment, training, performance intervention, and evaluation.  After their work is finished, external consultants migrate to other organizations in need of their specialized knowledge.

Although most consultants are external, we are beginning to see a larger number of internal consultants (fish) who perform similar duties but are permanent organizational members. They act as business partners guiding their organization toward optimal performance and work in areas of human performance improvement, training, and organization development.

What do think are the main advantages and disadvantages of internal versus external consulting? Which area interests you — would you rather be a bird or a fish?  Why?

About these ads

About Kathleen Iverson

Chair Graduate Program in Training & Development Roosevelt University
This entry was posted in Careers, Human Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, Learning Theory, Organizational Development, Technology, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s