On being an organizational archeologist

For the first twelve years of my professional career I knew how to call myself — a business intelligence specialist, a web developer, a mobile UX designer, a project manager.

Or, better, I thought I knew who I was.

I’ve been the guy who said “that’s not my job” when anything I thought didn’t fit my job description at the time came up.

During these past five years as a consultant, thought it has become increasingly harder to say “that’s not my job”, and, also, it has been close to impossibile to pinpoint what my job title could be.

What does a consultant do? What does a trainer do? What does a coach do? What does a facilitator do?

I’ve found out that all these new and old job titles —either too generic, or too fluffy, or too new— confuse most people.

Almost nobody is agreeing on what a coach is, or what’s the differences between a trainer and a facilitator are — if there are any. The line between a skill and a job title ever blurring.

The first time I asked myself where’s the line between a skill and a job title, and viceversa, I wasn’t a consultant yet: I was a project manager. Or just somebody who knew about project management. And software development. And UX design.

I came to understand that almost nobody —outside the inner circle of professionals of this or that discipline— will ever care about it.

For that reason, I resisted pinpoint myself with strict definitions, or, as Jonathan Stark calls it, with a Laser-Focused Value Proposition.

When I re-launched my website a few weeks ago, I toyed with the idea of describing myself as an organizational archeologist.

Everybody knows what an archeologist is.

They dig. They find things. They bring them to light. They give them context. They educate. They curate.

So what if I decided to combine my interest and expertise in how organizations work with the “archeologist” title?

You can totally make it up — aren’t all job titles silly and made up, after all?

Starting from what’s already there in a company or a team is of utmost importance and relevance for me. I don’t love rolling out this or that framework, and might a lighting strike me if I’ll ever create my own framework.

So yeah, you can consult me, you can ask me to coach you and to train you, I facilitate workshop and meetings, but regardless of you knowing what consulting/coaching/training/facilitating mean, what I am goes far beyond recognizable, standard-issued titles.

Yes, I could call myself Agile Coach, that the commercial title, the one with most marketing value, maybe. But how many Agile Coaches are out there? Many.

Do people know what an Agile Coach does all day? Take my very informed word for it: they don’t know, and don’t care.

Why should they care? I’ve been humbled more than once by the simple fact that as long as you can help people at the best of your abilities, they really don’t care how you call yourself.

In the end I didn’t put that I’m an organizational archeologist on my home page.

There’s just a bland “organizational consultant” definition of myself, but the archeology metaphor stuck with me, and I’m going to toy with it again.

Reflections is a series of articles about wide-ranging topics where I explore more open-endend questions about complex subjects.

Header photo by Yohann Mourre on Unsplash