Unpacking the client(s): Constructions, positions and client-consultant dynamics

Mats Alvesson, Dan Kärreman, Andrew Sturdy, Karen Handley

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55 Citations (SciVal)


Research on management consultancy usually emphasizes the rote and perspective of the consultants. Whilst important, consultants are only one element in a dynamic relationship involving both consultants and their clients. In much of the literature, the client is neglected, or is assumed to represent a distinct, immutable entity. In this paper, we argue that the client organisation is not uniform but is instead (like organisations generally) a more or less heterogeneous assemblage of actors, interests and inclinations involved in multiple and varied ways in consultancy projects. This paper draws upon three empirical cases and emphasizes three key aspects of clients in the context of consultancy projects: (a) client diversity, including, but not limited to diversity arising solely from (pre-)structured contact relations and interests; (b) processes of constructing 'the client' (including negotiation, conflict, and reconstruction) and the client identities which are thereby produced; and (c) the dynamics of client-consultant relations and how these influence the construction of multiple and perhaps contested client positions and identities. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-263
JournalScandinavian Journal of Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


  • Management consultancy
  • Client
  • Projects
  • Social construction


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