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Power and the diffusion of management ideas: The Case of McKinsey & Co.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-265
Number of pages19
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jun 2015
DateAccepted/In press - 23 May 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2015
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2016


In studies of the diffusion or translation of management ideas, power is frequently implied but is rarely theorised explicitly. Moreover, when it is recognised, the focus is often on only one form of power. This can obscure how different forms of power relate to each-other, shape idea diffusion, and connect to different forms of resistance. Using Lukes’ classic framing of power, we explore the activities of a key agent in the diffusion of ideas – management consultancy – and one of the leading players in that field - McKinsey & Co. We draw on diverse, publicly available forms of data on three different management ideas to identify how different forms of power and resistance enable and constrain the diffusion of management ideas. Our study emphasises both the dynamic relations between different forms of power over time and the importance of acknowledging the unintended consequences of power. At the same time, by focusing on power dynamics mostly operating outside of consulting projects, we add to our understanding of the role of consultancy in the diffusion of management ideas more generally.

    Structured keywords

  • Perspectives on Work

    Research areas

  • power, innovation, McKinsey, consultancy, Sociology

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  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Sage at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 380 KB, PDF document


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