Heterogeneity in client motives for utilizing management consulting

Jukka Mattila*, Sampo Tukiainen, Sami Kajalo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The paper advances research on the heterogeneity of client behavior and the understanding of “the client” as a key topic in the research of management consulting. First, this issue is addressed by summarizing the clients’ reasons for acquiring and utilizing management consulting services. Second, the purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which these reasons vary in four key client groups. Design/methodology/approach: Building on 1,127 responses to a survey questionnaire, the clients’ motives for acquiring and using management consulting are examined in four different client groups. Principal component analysis with an eigenvalue greater than one and varimax rotation method was used to discern the motives for acquiring and using consulting. Findings: The analysis identifies two co-existing factors as key reasons for acquiring and utilizing management consulting: “Impact” and “Significance.” This typology is used to show that the reasons for acquiring management consulting services are dependent on the hierarchical level of the client. While reasons related to “Impact” are consistently emphasized in the four examined client groups, reasons related to “Significance” show greater variance and are emphasized less higher up in the organizational hierarchy. Research limitations/implications: The paper argues for the need to reconsider the conventionally marginal and subordinate position of subjective motivations in the management consulting literature. The paper creates bridges between previously contending paradigms by developing a holistic and comprehensive framework of the client motives for utilizing management consulting. Practical implications: For practitioners, the results complement prior understandings of client purchase decision making. More fundamentally, this paper provides elements for restructuring the overall discourse on the roles and uses of consultants. Originality/value: The paper is the first large-sample examination of client heterogeneity, developing an empirically verified typology of the reasons for utilizing management consulting. More importantly, the paper specifies how these reasons vary among four key client groups. The primary contributions of the paper are: the paper posits a robust typology on the previously multivocal and fragmented reasons for utilizing management consulting. The paper specifies how the reasons vary in four key client groups, developing a more nuanced understanding of the heterogeneity of “the client.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-267
Number of pages18
JournalBaltic Journal of Management
Issue number2
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Change management
  • Management consulting
  • Professional services


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