What Exactly is An Intervention? part 3


Strangely enough, “intervention” was not a word I would ever use in my work, until a client repeatedly told me that he wanted me to perform what he called “an intervention.”

Now, here in the Caribbean we do not have the psychological language in our daily conversations that exists in North America. In the therapeutic world, an intervention is something performed by the friends of someone who is an addict of some kind, in the hopes that their combined efforts can help to cause an immediate, positive choice that saves the person’s life from destruction. They might hire an expert to help them to perform the intervention, and collectively say things to the addict that they had either never said before, or said together, or said without demanding an immediate choice.

While that is a bit dramatic for the my company’s purposes, it is not that far off in terms of the general idea. High stakes interventions are designed to save companies from the path they are currently on, and the results they are likely to manifest if nothing changes.

The following definition of an intervention from wikipedia seems quite appropriate:

In Organizational Development (OD), another sense of the word intervention is the activity of the OD consultant within the client’s context. In a formal OD process, an OD consultant gains entry to the organization, establishes a contract with the client, diagnoses the current functioning of the system, and recommends specific actions to improve things.

A few years ago, just before developing my strategic plan it occurred to me that the work I enjoyed the most, and wanted my company to focus on were the interventions that had the highest stakes. In other words, they had the potential for the highest impact, but also were the ones that were risky due to how much was at stake. Usually, those close to the problem had tried everything they knew to try.

It definitely was not cookie-cutter kind of work.

As a child I remember reading an article by someone called Red Adair, who was not your ordinary fireman. Instead, he focused exclusively on the toughest kinds of fires there were to put out — those fuelled by the oil from wells or rigs. They required specialized training, tools and methods that Red himself pioneered and invented, before making them available to the world.

Every kid grows up wanting to be a fireman!

While I have never put out a physical fire, I enjoy the challenge of solving really, really tough people problems that impact a company’s bottom line. It brings out some of the same qualities that Red Adair must use to put out these difficult blazes.

Anyone who is interested in high-stake interventions must have a willingness to take risks, in order to make a tangible difference. Learning how to be effective in the face of a risky environment requires certain personal qualities, and organizational qualities and a certain level ofu preparation.

One kind of preparation is to develop the kind of muscles required for self-reflection, because as I noted in part 2, interventions often start (and end) with a discovery of the part that we play in the genesis or continuation of the problem.

So, today, thanks to this client of mine, I now provide interventions, and through this blog help others to do the same.