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2017 Directors Report


Is management consultancy really global?

1st November 2018

In academic and media accounts of management, we are constantly presented with a picture of management consultancy as increasingly influential and global in its scope. In both the private and public sectors and across transnational organisations, consulting firms offer their services to a seemingly willing audience. This mirrors the images projected by the global consulting firms themselves, who boast offices in scores of countries and hundreds of cities and a ‘thought leadership’ role for executives and policy makers.

But even a superficial study of the available data of both global and local firms shows a different picture. It is as if we want to believe that there is a dominant group, shaping our world. In fact, the sector as a whole is highly concentrated geographically. The large firms may have a wide network of offices, but these are often to service multinational clients.

Overall, almost four fifths of consulting fees are accounted for by North America (48%) and the European Union (30%). And with nearly three-quarters of European consulting revenues stemming from only three countries (Germany, UK and France), this means that, along with the USA and Canada, around 70% of consultancy fees worldwide are generated in only 5 nations – over double these countries’ share of global GDP.

Our recent research, which is featured in an editorial in the Financial Times, explores why such a cross-national variation in consulting exists – above and beyond economic factors - and therefore also flags how there are many other routes to organisational and management innovation.

The research article has just been published as: Sturdy, A. J. and O'Mahoney, J. (2018) ‘Explaining National Variation in the use of Management Consulting Knowledge – A Framework’. Management Learning 49, 5, 537-558.

Posted by andrew sturdy - 
University of Bristol

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