تولید دانش در تیم های مشاوره
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|4447||2010||11 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Scandinavian Journal of Management, Volume 26, Issue 3, September 2010, Pages 279–289
The central thesis of this paper is that the production of knowledge in consulting teams can neither be understood as the result of an internal interaction between clients and consultants decoupled from the wider socio-political environment nor as externally determined by socially constructed industry recipes or management fashions detached from the cognitive uniqueness of the client–consultant team. Instead, we argue that knowledge production in consulting teams is intrinsically linked to the institutional environment that not only provides resources such as funding, manpower, or legitimacy but also offers cognitive feedback through which knowledge production is influenced. By applying the theory of self-organization to the knowledge production in consulting teams, we explain how consulting teams are structured by the socio-cultural environment and are structuring this environment to continue their work. The consulting team's knowledge is shaped and influenced by cognitive feedback loops that involve external collective actors such as the client organization, practice groups of consulting firms, the academic/professional community, and the general public who essentially become co-producers of consulting knowledge.
Unlike manufacturing firms that can derive their competitive advantage from patented technologies, cost-effective locations, or unique products, management consulting firms gain their competitive advantage primarily from having the ability to create and sustain knowledge resources (Werr & Stjernberg, 2003) and institutional capital based on legitimacy, reputation or client relationships (Reihlen, Smets, & Veit, 2010). Mastering knowledge production and management is therefore particularly important for consultancy firms. Prior research has analyzed the production of consulting knowledge from two very different perspectives. From an internal perspective, scholars have investigated different knowledge-management practices (Hansen et al., 1999, Morris and Empson, 1998 and Werr, 2002), the nature of knowledge work (Alvesson, 2001 and Starbuck, 1992), and organizational elements that encourage or inhibit knowledge development in consulting firms (Anand et al., 2007 and Heusinkveld and Benders, 2005). Furthermore, research has pointed out that clients co-produce or co-create consulting knowledge together with consultants (Bettencourt et al., 2002, Fosstenløkken et al., 2003 and Hislop, 2002). Much of this research is based on the assumption that knowledge creation can best be understood by studying consulting firms or client–consultant teams. For example, Bettencourt et al. (2002) stress the need to consider clients as ‘partial employees’ of consulting companies and to manage their co-production of consulting services. Only a few studies recognize that external actors can take part in the knowledge development within consulting teams and identify this as an important issue for future research (i.e., Fosstenløkken et al., 2003 and Hislop, 2002). From an external perspective, researchers have directed their attention to study the institutional embeddedness of the production of consulting knowledge. The underlying assumption of these investigations is that the socio-cultural context in which knowledge is produced strongly influences its content. For instance, researchers into management fashions (Abrahamson, 1996, Kieser, 1997 and Suddaby and Greenwood, 2001) argue that management knowledge is socially constructed by a fashion-setting community composed of the elite consulting firms, the large accounting conglomerates, management gurus, and business schools. Management fashions become transitory rationality myths that are used as a standard for evaluating the usefulness of knowledge for framing and handling managerial problems (Benders and van Veen, 2001, Kieser, 1997 and Suddaby and Greenwood, 2001). The focus here is on the macro processes of knowledge development: on how organizational ‘actors within the field [of management knowledge] produce an informal structure that innovates new managerial knowledge and regulates its production and consumption’ (Suddaby & Greenwood, 2001, p. 950). The interaction between organizational actors and specific client–consultant teams, where the actual knowledge production and dissemination takes place, is not at the heart of these studies. So far, research has paid only scant attention to integrating the internal and external view on the production of consulting knowledge (Sturdy, Werr, & Buono, 2009). Knowledge is pictured as either produced internally by consultants in collaboration with clients decoupled from the wider socio-political environment or externally determined by industry recipes, management fashions, and the zeitgeist detached from the unique experience, creativity, and case-specific idiosyncrasies of the client–consultant team. We argue that such integration is critical if we are to better understand the nature of professional knowledge production. As Anand et al. (2007, p. 426) suggest, ‘a more nuanced research design is required to explain fully how internal and external forces interact in the creation of knowledge-based structures [and knowledge in general].’ (See also Hislop, 2002). In order to study this interaction between the external context and internal processes, we choose the client–consultant team as our focal unit of analysis as this is where the main part of consulting knowledge development takes place (Bettencourt et al., 2002, Fosstenløkken et al., 2003 and Hislop, 2002). We argue that knowledge production in client–consultant teams is intrinsically linked to the institutional environment that not only provides resources such as funding, manpower, or legitimacy but also offers cognitive feedback through which professional practices are regulated or influenced. Thus, the question we address in this article is how client–consultant teams structure and interact with their environment as the milieu for consulting knowledge production; what is the nature of the circular processes of influence between client–consultant teams and external collective actors that lead to the creation, legitimization and dissemination of consulting knowledge? Our approach is based on the theory of self-organization, notably the works of the German sociologists Krohn and Küppers, 1989, Krohn and Küppers, 1990a, Krohn and Küppers, 1990c, Krohn and Küppers, 1992a and Krohn and Küppers, 1992b, Krohn, Küppers, and Paslack (1991), and Küppers (2002) on self-organization of science, which we reframe on the basis of (empirical) insights from the management consulting sector. The theory of self-organization replaces the idea of adaptation with the concept of structuring, implying that client–consultant teams not only enact their environment in the sense Weick (1979) introduced this notion, but engage actively in creating favorable conditions for their operation. This paper contributes to a theory of professional knowledge production in several ways. First, by outlining the specifics of the cognitive feedback loops influencing the work of client–consultant teams, this paper provides a differentiated picture of the nature of consulting knowledge production as a circular, multidimensional, and interactive social process. It outlines the underlying activities and processes that client–consultant teams need to master in order to be (seen as) successful. Second, by utilizing a new theoretical lens and existing empirical findings, we explain the micro processes of knowledge production and dissemination and their interrelation with the macro processes of creation and institutionalization of new management concepts and models, an issue which is still under-researched in the existing literature. The paper is structured as follows: first, we explain the origins of the theory of self-organizing systems and show its relevance for the study of the knowledge production process within consulting. Next, we describe the self-organization of client–consultant teams by differentiating three social accomplishments that client–consultant teams need for survival and success as a social group. Then, we discuss in detail four structurally different relations in which client–consultant teams are embedded and explain how these teams act on their environment to continually strive to have this environment create favorable conditions for their operation. Simultaneously, we outline how different collective actors in the environment—the consulting firm and its practice groups, the client organization, the professional community, and the wider public—influence the working of the client–consultant team. We conclude our paper by outlining implications for future research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The central thesis of this paper is that consulting knowledge is an outcome of endless processes of influence and mutual adjustment between professional teams and multiple networks of collective actors in which they are embedded. By applying the theory of self-organization to knowledge production in client–consultant teams and making use of existing empirical research on consulting, we reveal how clients, consultants and external actors interact and shape each other's cognitive orientations and consequently, the knowledge production within client–consultant teams. We show that this influence takes complex forms and pathways resulting in a view of knowledge production in client–consultant teams as a circular, multidimensional, and interactive social process. One contribution of this paper is that it further elaborates on the active roles that clients play in the process of consulting knowledge production, which has been outlined in recent research (e.g., Alvesson et al., 2009, Sturdy et al., 2009a and Sturdy et al., 2009b). We argue that clients influence knowledge production within consulting teams on a number of levels: (1) clients as team members are directly involved in problem-solving and knowledge development (see also Fosstenløkken et al., 2003 and Hislop, 2002); (2) external, non-involved clients influence the direction of problem-solving and knowledge development through their support or resistance to particular ideas and solutions developed by client–consultant teams as well through their influence through the provision of financial resources and the selection of team members; (3) through their support for or resistance to consulting concepts, clients as members of industry groups influence the generation and dissemination of consulting fads. Furthermore, this paper sheds more light on the mechanisms by which other external collective actors, such as practice groups, the media, business schools, and the general public influence consulting and consulting knowledge by outlining the nature of the cognitive feedback loops that bind consulting teams to their environment. In this way, we contribute to a better understanding of the micro processes of knowledge production and dissemination and their interrelation with the macro processes of creation and institutionalization of new management concepts and models, an issue which is still under-researched in the existing literature. Future research may benefit from extending our work theoretically and empirically. On a more fundamental level, we suggest that knowledge should neither be investigated by an individualist (e.g., Felin & Hesterly, 2007) nor by a collectivist tradition (e.g., Dougherty, 1992) since neither of them recognizes the co-evolutionary and interactionist nature of knowledge creation. Quite contrary to both traditions, we see more promising work explicitly focusing on the interaction between socio-cultural and individual forces working together to create knowledge (Bandura, 1986, Bunge, 1996 and Ringberg and Reihlen, 2008). That is, the dynamic processes involved in knowledge production can only be fully appreciated if researchers take into account both cognitive dispositions of clients/consultants (individualism) and social feedback mechanisms (collectivism). Knowledge creation is thus predicated on influences from both the socio-cultural environment and the intentional mind. Furthermore, what is of particular interest is to explore how the professional team and external actors react to each other's interpretations and actions fuelling an endless process of instability and mutual adjustment (Nicolini, 2009). This process is by no means free of political agendas and dominance. Rather, the negotiation processes taking place between professional teams and their environment influence, and are influenced by, relations of power and dominance. This interaction between the cognitive and political dimensions of knowledge production is still poorly understood. On a more specific level, the presumed interactions between the client–consultant team and external collective actors involved in the production of consulting knowledge should be studied empirically. One route to accomplish this is to conduct in-depth case studies (Eisenhardt, 1989 and Yin, 2003) with different actors in the consulting industry, through which central mechanisms of mutual influence and interaction can be revealed and their influence assessed. Such studies would contribute to developing empirically grounded theories (Glaser, 1992 and Strauss and Corbin, 1998) on the social embeddedness of the production of consulting knowledge. Furthermore, empirical research is needed to access how client–consultant teams as self-organizing systems process external cognitive feedback and influences in a non-deterministic way and what are the results of different ‘paths of influence’. In other words, we need to learn more about the path-dependency of the social production of knowledge. Another avenue for future research would be to empirically study socio-cognitive interactions within other types of professional teams, particularly those that are regulated through professional associations, i.e. accounting, architecture, engineering and law. It is important to find out to what extent cognitive feedback loops differ between different professions in order to better understand differences and similarities in the knowledge development processes of these professional services. As Malhotra and Morris (2009, p. 896) point out, ‘systematic inter-professional comparisons of firms are non-existent.’ We regard our contribution in this paper as merely a starting point for research in these directions.