Redefining the Rules of the Economic Game
Edited by Marie-Laure Djelic and Sigrid Quack
Chapter 4: Message and Medium: The Role of Consulting Firms in Globalization and its Load Interpretation
Djelic 01 chaps 15/1/03 9:00 Page 83 4. Message and medium: the role of consulting firms in globalization and its local interpretation Christopher McKenna, Marie-Laure Djelic and Antti Ainamo INTRODUCTION A century ago, management consulting as we now understand it did not exist. The management consulting industry emerged and structured itself in the twentieth century, growing very rapidly in the process. In today’s capitalist landscape, the industry has become a significant actor (O’Shea and Madigan 1997). Historically, the changing needs of a stable group of large corporate clients drove the industry’s growth. In time, however, growth also came from the exploration of uncharted territories – new clients, new industries and also new countries. From traditional engagements with private for-profit firms essentially involved in the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of goods, consulting firms have made inroads in the service and non-profit sectors and they have started working with semi-public and public organizations. Slowly from the mid 1960s and much more rapidly since the 1980s, consultants have also internationalized their activities from a mostly American base, often becoming in this process multinational, and increasingly global, firms. Scholarly interest in management consulting has increased in relation to the weight of the industry in the economy. The role and legitimacy of management consultants are now key questions and emerging answers vary. Some scholars claim that management consultants fill in for a lack of internal expertise or competency. Alternatively, other scholars explain that consultants serve as scapegoats or hired guns in situations requiring difficult decisions...
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