Organising under occupational threat – structural options and dilemmas for internal consultant managers

Nick Wylie

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Established occupations and professions are used to asserting and defending their jurisdictions on the basis of various occupational strategies or projects such as professionalization (Abbott, 1988). However, in a more diffuse, open and weakly established occupational context, this is more difficult, especially when the service offered is discretionary. We explore a functional management group responsible for organising change internally that lacks occupational closure, regulatory support and, often, hierarchical authority (i.e. staff professionals) (Daudigeos, 2013). This group of internal consultants or consultant managers adopts a range of practices to try and maintain and extend its influence. While there is some traditional occupational organisation, such as through professional associations (e.g. CMI in the UK and AIMC in the USA), other corporate practices within host organisations are more significant, such as service diversification, client relationship management and alliances with other occupational groups such as HRM (Sturdy et al, 2013; Wylie et al, 2014). However, by drawing on one of the largest ever studies of management consultancy, we focus here on the different organisational structural arrangements adopted by actors and their struggles for survival against non-use, incorporation or substitution. In particular, we identify four dominant types of internal change agency unit - transformers, enforcers, specialists and independents – and discuss their conditions and the tensions and dynamics they generate both in sustaining a role and in competition with other groups such as line management and specific management functions including other corporate professions. The article is organised as follows. First we discuss the occupational context of consulting in general and, in its specific form as internal consultancy, outlining the challenges it faces, especially different forms of uncertainty. Second, we briefly outline our research before setting out the four main structural forms. In our discussion and conclusion, we reflect on the wider implications for understanding occupational competition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Group for Organization Studies Conference
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jul 2017
Event33rd EGOS Colloquium: The Good Organization: Aspirations - Interventions - Struggles - Copenhagen Business School, Copenghagen, Denmark
Duration: 6 Jul 20178 Jul 2017
Conference number: 33


Conference33rd EGOS Colloquium
Abbreviated title33rd EGOS Colloquium
Internet address


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