Exercise In Rewriting

The extract below is extremely difficult to follow, partly because of its high-flown style, and partly because of its unhelpful structure.

Read it carefully – it eventually yields up its meaning – and then rewrite it in plain and well-structured English.  (Make use of any relevant strategies suggested in this chapter and in the earlier chapters on style.)

It is frequently said by top managers that, were they ever inclined to ask themselves if there might be problems or opportunities deserving their attention other than those continuously arising from the daily round, they would at once send for some reputable firm of business consultants – company doctors, management professors, experts from Boston, confidential advisors, and so forth. The idea that what might be lacking is something personal to the top managers themselves, something , moreover, that they alone might one day be able to put right, would strike them as very strange. It would be even stranger to them to suggest that, not only were they themselves alone in being able to put things right, but that only they, too, could discover the avenues to successful  amendment. But since there can be no learning without action and no action without learning, if change is to be brought about by the purchased services of outsiders, independently of any involvement at a personal level of the top managers who commission those outsiders, then there can be no learning – that is, no preparation among those at present in charge to meet the recurrent challenges of the future. The enterprise will therefore become dependent upon its external advisors until it can no longer afford to meet their fees and expenses – a condition now frequently encountered. Nor is this all. The external consultant generally claims expertise in such-and-such a field, and, on this account, will diagnose the affliction (or interpret the hope) of his client management in terms of it; for a month or more everything will go as he predicts, the pattern uncovered will fit the forecast already made, and the plan of action will build upon the personal  enthusiasms of members of the host management. The outside consultants who have prepared the plan – not seldom by piecing together fragments of their past prescriptions to other  clients- will gradually ‘phase themselves out’, leaving those on the spot to implement what still needs to be done. With their wide connections across a fast professional culture, the itinerant experts are able quickly to find the super-specialist needed (it might seem) to advise upon some highly technical obstruction to success . . .

The assignment of a visiting fellow from another enterprise also anxious to do something about its more obstinate and ill-structured embarrassments has little in common with the engagement of professional experts. Were the fellows of the inter-University programme to carry visiting cards to widen their possibilities of future employment, they would endorse them in red capitals:  ‘Our strength, just like your own, lies in our ignorance of your troubles’. For, while the expert may pretend that his first desire is to see the problem as it is seen by the management that needs to do something about it, he is in his particular business for quite a different reason; the visiting fellow, on the other hand, is clearly another managers, and to learn from his hosts as much as they are to learn from him. He does not seek to prolong his engagement with his hosts, nor to withhold unpleasant advice that may prejudice the willingness of his clients to meet their financial obligations – since there are none. He is not hoping, as are many consultants, that he may be offered an appointment in the firm he is setting out to help, so that his advice will not be coloured by quite adventitious possibilities having nothing to do with the original reasons for his being in the action learning programme at all. Faced with a temporary check, the visiting fellow has no headquarters office he may ring for instant support from another itinerant expert; he will need to open up some fresh line of questioning with his hosts. Unlike the professional consultant, he will not be spending a lot of his time trying to find out what the most powerful person in the receiving organisation  believes the problem to be in order to present to him a solution based upon that interpretation; the visiting fellow will, laboriously and with little thanks, be trying to reconcile the myriad views and experiences of large numbers of his new colleagues in such a manner that these now start to suggest to him what might be going on and how it may be improved upon. While in practice the expert consultant is desperately striving to use every interview he conducts as a means of assembling every shred of an idea from others into what he will claim as his own solution, he must be very cautious about creating the impression that he is circulating as the thirstiest of learners : his official status is a teller of others, an instructor of babes, a guide to the foolish, an enlightener dispelling the darkness, a leader of the blind, and so forth. He must be extremely cautious about giving an impression that there is anything he has to learn. The visiting fellow, on the other hand, gets his authority to help his new colleagues from his own eagerness to learn by recording the explanations of what they themselves imagine to be wrong; as the supreme non-expert, he is, at least at the outset, in no position to question what they say, nor to stem their desire to say it – and hence to learn from what they are trying to tell him about that which, they feel, seems to pass their own understanding. As Saint Paul reminded us all: ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise’.  It is one of the texts upon which action learing is founded, but rarely seen on the Christmas cards from experts.

-Reg Revans, ABC of Action Learning

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit www.manuscriptedit.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *