Consulting has a rich history. Academics and consulting firms generate a seemingly endless stream of theories, principles, practices, books and products. Who can keep them straight, much less remember them all?
Certainly over the past twenty years, consulting firms have turned out the "approaches" to consulting, management and business. Without getting into how many have been able to stand up to rigorous validation (remember the In Search of Excellence companies a decade later?), recognize that it is not necessary to "keep them straight." You only need to settle on a few that you can understand and that you can verify have proven valid in your own practice.
Let's focus on your second issue, that of remembering all of them. A 2008 article in Ethics Newsline
addressed the diminishing reliance on memorization as the basis of what we "know." With the ability to search just about anything online, we conclude that there is no reason to commit to memory that which we could look up. This is a subtle but fundamental change in what we consider as professional knowledge. If anyone can look up business concepts, management examples, ethical principles or consulting techniques, then of what value is experience, reflection and memorization of consulting skills and development of behaviors?
Imagine trying to effectively diagnose and recommend improvements to a client without some historical knowledge of the beginning of the consulting industry (who was Frederick Taylor, what was the Hoover Commission?), management principles (is strategy a linear process or a portfolio of real options?), contemporary concepts in problem solving (why use TRIZ or rapid prototyping?), business ethics (why is section 404 a contentious area for consultants?), organizational change (is the 7-s model complete?), and consultant credentialing (what impact will the new ISO standards for consultant certification have on client selection of consultants?). Without a basic understanding and a commitment to memory of these kinds of principles, events, and concepts, are we relegated to treating consulting as a research project ("I'll get back to you with my recommendations as soon as I finish Googling your issue")? Tip:
Professional development for management consultants means reading, research, understanding and committing to memory a broad toolkit of business, management and consulting skills. You need to have those tools sharpened and ready to use right away, not have them "back at the shop." © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA