Management consultants have long been recognized as carriers of management knowledge and disseminators of management fashions. While it is well understood how they promote the acceptance of their concepts, surprisingly little has been said about their strategies to promote the acceptability of their services. In this paper, we elaborate a typology of strategies by which management consultancies can create and sustain such “institutional capital” (Oliver, 1997) that helps them extract competitive resources from their institutional context. Drawing on examples from the German consulting industry, we show how localized competitive actions can enhance individual firm’s positions, but also the collective institutional capital of the consulting industry as a whole, legitimize consulting services in broader sectors of society and facilitating access to requisite resources. These accounts counter prevailing imagery of institutional entrepreneurship as individualistic, “heroic” action and demonstrate how distributed, embedded actors can collectively shape the institutional context from within to enhance their institutional capital.
Best paper Award, Management Consulting Division, Academy of Management
- embedded agency
- institutional capital
- institutional strategy