Understanding the reciprocal nature of client-consultant relationship in management consulting

Jukka Mattila*, Pierre Brolin, Sampo Tukiainen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to shed light on reciprocal nature of the client-consultant relationship in a management consulting project. Although the idea of reciprocal nature of the client-consultant relationship has been recognized (McGivern, 1983; Kakadabse et al., 2006), however, the majority of previous research has discussed the consultancy process solely from a unidirectional perspective, stressing the consultant's effect on the client. Therefore the existing research has not examined the process of reciprocity in the client-consultant interaction.

Design/methodology/approach - In this paper we build on a single case study of an internationalizing SME technology company. The consulting project with the company SN4Mobile spanned three years and progressed in terms of pragmatic responsibilities and in relation to strategic objectives. The chosen case study is a revealing case because the client-consultant relationship was intensive and lasted for a long time. The case therefore provides a design enabling us to examine longitudinally and in rich detail the reciprocity in the consultant-client relationship in securing the needed knowledge for internationalization efforts. In this longitudinal case study we relied on multiple sources of data: of in-house memos, emails, interviews, project reports, meeting notes, consulting evaluations, and field observations.

Originality/value - In this paper we add to the existing research by elucidating the reciprocal ways in which the client and consultants interact in contributing to management consulting service delivery. We argue that in the reciprocal client-consultant relationship co-operation is bidirectional in nature and the knowledge produces and other final outcomes of a management consultancy process are a result of an interaction involving both the client's and consultant's commitment. This widens the view on client-consultant relationship in existing theory on knowledge intensive client work. (cf. Sturdy et al., 2009; Ciampi, 2007; Todorova, 2004; Pellegrinelli, 2002; Bitner et al., 1997)

Practical implications - The proposed results of the analysis provides a framework, which allows the clients of management consultants better design, brief and guide the consultancy processes. From the consultant's perspective, the results of this study contribute to a view which encourages to design facilitation methods, which strengthen the involvement of the client's intellectual capacity in successful delivery of consulting services.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIFKAD 2013: 8TH INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON KNOWLEDGE ASSET DYNAMICS
EditorsG Schiuma, JC Spender, A Pulic
Pages123-146
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventInternational Forum on Knowledge Asset Dynamics - Zagreb, Croatia
Duration: 12 Jun 201314 Jun 2013
Conference number: 8

Conference

ConferenceInternational Forum on Knowledge Asset Dynamics
Abbreviated titleIFKAD
CountryCroatia
CityZagreb
Period12/06/201314/06/2013

Keywords

  • Management consulting
  • knowledge creation
  • innovation
  • internationalization
  • client-consultant relationship
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • FIRMS
  • ROLES
  • INNOVATION
  • SERVICES
  • BROKERS

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