Managers as consultants: The hybridity and tensions of neo-bureaucratic management

A. Sturdy, C. Wright, Nick Wylie

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35 Citations (Scopus)


The nature and extent of changes in management remain subject to debate, especially around the notion of post-bureaucracy. Most research concedes that there has been some change, but towards hybrid or neo-bureaucratic practices. However, the mechanisms through which these changes have occurred, and their precise forms and outcomes have received less attention. This article addresses these issues by focusing on an emerging group of managers that closely resembles images of new management (e.g. project-based, change focused, externally oriented and advisory in style). Drawing on interview-based research in the United Kingdom and Australia, it examines consulting practices and orientations adopted within management roles. It first constructs an ideal type of neo-bureaucracy and then explores different elements of management as consultancy empirically. It shows how they are inspired by anti-bureaucratic rationales but assume a hybrid neo-bureaucratic form. We also show that, far from resolving tensions between rational and post-bureaucratic forms, management as consultancy both reproduces and changes the tensions of management and organisation. Thus, rather than denying or heralding changes in management towards a ‘new spirit of capitalism’, we focus on a context in which such changes are occurring and demonstrate their wider implications for both management and consultancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-205
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2014

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