The literature is filled with "tried and true" consulting approaches on which many of us have built our practices. With all the changes in business, technology and commerce, how do we know if what worked decades ago still works now?
We can't generalize about all consulting practices but you are on to something. Consulting, whether in analysis, communication, marketing, diagnostics, or any other discipline or approach, necessarily must evolve with the times. This doesn’t mean that the core of an approach won’t serve you for a long time. It does mean, however, that you need test each approach to see whether it still is valid. Specifically, you need to question the underlying assumptions and metaphors on which an approach is based.
For example, we all learned about the process of converting someone who might be interested in our services into a client. We use the metaphor of a funnel, where prospects go into the large end and are reduced in number and increased in qualification until they become clients. However, this linear model has been increasingly questioned in recent years, and some are proposing some variation on a network model, with prospects coming into the client flow at various points and leaving at various points, only to possibly reenter at a later point. Do the metaphor and underlying assumptions still support your “common sense” approach?Tip:
Both consultants and managers often use approaches that are widely written about or presumed to be “common practice.” However, we are obliged to dig deep into these approaches and identify the underlying assumptions. What metaphor is used? What factors were in effect when the approach was invented? Is the approach a retread of an old idea, or common sense with a new name. Is it a “go find a market in which no one else is active and sell to it” or “build parallel processes to streamline and reduce roadblocks in your processes” (these are really “new ideas” people have “invented” and heavily marketed)? We need to make sure we understand why we select an approach before we use it. And that’s just common sense. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA