Consultant's role: a qualitative inquiry from the consultant's perspective

Nada K. Kakabadse (Northampton Business School, The University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Eddy Louchart (Northampton Business School, The University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Andrew Kakabadse (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Publication date: 1 June 2006



Many criticisms questioning the role and the efficiency of business consultants have been addressed. However, although a great deal of research has been carried out on business consultancy, little has been written on business consultancy from the consultant's viewpoint. In order to gain a detailed view of the situation from an internal consultant's perspective, an investigation of how business consultants perceive their role and contribution within their clients' organisations was undertaken. Drawing on different perspectives, this study aims to demystify the role of business consultants, and to ascertain how they perceive their role within their clients' organisations.


A series of interviews were conducted, where business consultants were asked to comment on issues related to the nature of the relationship with their clients, the pros and cons of their role and also the amount of control and discretion they exercise over the different projects in which they are engaged. Interview data from 17 business consultants from a variety of fields, such as change management, information technology, corporate finance and human resource, are analysed using an interpretive frame.


The research findings reveal that differences exist between the rather pejorative conclusions of previous research and the conclusions of this study. Whereas previous research highlighted the omnipotence and the more or less deontological practice of consultants, the data analysis from this study concludes that business consultants appear very humble in their approach to their relationship with clients, and believe that moving clients forward is their ultimate goal. The findings also enable the study to demonstrate that business consultants are conscious of the amount of control and discretion that is passed on to them by clients, and do recognise that criticisms of their role can be at times justified.


The study has value for both consultants and clients. The role determinants model presented in the study highlights the main characteristics of the role of business consultants and helps both clients and consultants to rethink their approach to the consulting process.



Kakabadse, N., Louchart, E. and Kakabadse, A. (2006), "Consultant's role: a qualitative inquiry from the consultant's perspective", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 416-500.

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