The Nature and Role of Power in Client-Consultant Teams

Publication Type:
Journal article
Devinney Timothy and Nikolova Natalia 2009, 'The Nature and Role of Power in Client-Consultant Teams', Emerald, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 31-55.
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The aim of this paper is to provide a clearer picture of the nature of power imbalance in client-consultant teams, which has negative consequences for the development and implementation of consultants' recommendations, and to outline ways how to avoid such an imbalance in the first instance. This is an empirical paper based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with clients and consultants from the strategic consulting sector in Australia. Taking a differentiated look at the roles and responsibilities of members of client-consultant teams, the authors propose that power within client-consultant teams is multidimensional and the outcome of the interplay of its different forms is not predictable. It is further argued that a power balance is crucial for achieving better results from consulting projects. The findings are not generalizable, due to the small sample and the focus on strategic consulting. The results encourage further research in different types of consulting projects as well as studies based on observation of client-consultant interactions. The paper highlights the main points of concern for managers and consultants and provides some suggestions on how to achieve a balanced relationship. This paper's major contribution is in providing deeper insight into a hitherto underexplored issue of client-consultant interactions: the contested nature of power in client-consultant teams and the reasons and outcomes of power imbalance
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