View all news

Is management consultancy really global?

Professor Andrew Sturdy, Professor in Management at the University of Bristol

23 October 2018

Andrew Sturdy, Professor of Management and Organisation in the Department of Management, reveals a different picture.

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.

Further information

The research article will be published as: Sturdy, A. J. and O'Mahoney, J. (2018) ‘Explaining National Variation in the use of Management Consulting Knowledge – A Framework’. Management Learning (November).

Edit this page