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Consultancy’s consequences? A critical assessment of management consultancy’s impact on management

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517 - 530
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Volume22, 3
DatePublished - 2011


Much is claimed of management consultancy by critics and celebrants alike. Through shaping and legitimising ideas and catalysing change, it has impacted on management practice and people’s lives more generally. Given the growth of consultancy as an industry and wider activity, few have challenged these views. However, there are good reasons for treating them with some caution. In particular, its impact is exaggerated in geographical scope and confused with that of management ideas in general - consultancy as a scapegoat for management. At the same time, recent changes in both the nature and status of management and of consultancy have rendered traditional boundary distinctions less tenable such that the scope and impact of consultancy may be even greater than is typically assumed. Overall, its impact has been both under- and overstated. The article therefore argues for a more cautious and critical approach. This recognises consultancy as an integral part of management, where its distinctive role lies more in its structural position and ambiguous visibility and accountability than its practices, skills or occupational/professional identity claims. The research agenda thus becomes one of more clearly identifying the consequences of management as well as of consultancy, in part through a consideration of contexts where they are, or were, largely absent.

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Publisher: Blackwell


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