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From prophets to profits? The identities of management consultants

Published on June 30, 2016   25 min

Other Talks in the Series: Management Consultancy

Welcome, my name is Professor Christopher Wright. Today we'll be examining the occupational identity of Management Consultancy.
Management Consultants engage in abroad range of work, from providing strategic business advice to senior corporate executives through to assisting the managers in the implementation of new organizational processes, to actually undertaking managerial tasks themselves, sometimes as outsourced managerial labor. Consultants come work in large global companies of many tens of thousands of employees, as well as small firms offering specialist boutique services. In today's lecture, we'll investigate what key rhetorics and images make up the occupational identity of Management Consulting, and how these relate to the particular structural constraints, consultants face in their daily work.
The structure of the lecture is as follows, firstly, we'll begin by exploring the concepts of occupation and occupational identity. Second, we'll look at the nature of Management Consulting work and identify the three major structural constraints that inform consulting identity. Thirdly, we'll unpack each of these constraints and explore the key rhetorics and images that are used. These will be related to work pressures and tensions in consulting work.
So let's begin by thinking about occupations, we generally recognize an occupation, as forms of work or business from which individuals earn a living. However, occupations are more than a set of tasks carried out within a particular work role, they also involve a range of understandings about the work, including rules of acceptable behavior, the meaning of the work they conduct and the construction of identities for members of the occupation, including the perceptions they'd like to convey to outsiders. Identity construction for members of an occupation is particularly important, in that it signals to both those within and outside the occupation, what membership of the occupation involves or at least aspires to. Moreover, sociologists have argued that occupational identities are subjective ways in which members of an occupation respond to various pressures. For instance, the American sociologist Gary Fine, characterizes occupational identity as made up of bundles of imagery organized as different 'rhetorics' which occupational members draw upon to address problematic situations common in their work. According to Fine, occupational rhetorics are the process of fitting work into a meaning system where images are used to make sense of who one is. Occupational members construct identities by making use of imagery associated with a range of social roles corresponding to different aspects of their work, such as, artisans and laborers for kitchen workers, entertainers for musicians. Justifying their work in terms of positive imagery while distancing themselves from negative imagery. Identity, thus involves a range of shared meanings developed by the members of the occupation.

From prophets to profits? The identities of management consultants

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