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Voluntaristic vs. systemic perspectives on managing the consultant-client relationship - Zurich Open Repository and Archive


Seidl, D; Mohe, M (2008). Voluntaristic vs. systemic perspectives on managing the consultant-client relationship. In: Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Anaheim, California, USA, 8 August 2008 - 13 August 2008.

Abstract

The aim of this article is to provide a new theoretical perspective on the possibilities for clients to manage their consultants. The existing perspectives on managing consultants share the voluntaristic assumption that in principle it is possible to manage the consultant–client relationship. In this article we introduce a new and opposed systemic perspective. From a systems-theoretical point of view, clients and consultants can be conceptualized as two autopoietic communication systems that operate according to idiosyncratic logics. They are structurally coupled through a third system, the so-called “contact system”, which itself constitutes a separate system. Due to the different logics of the three systems there is a barrier to the transfer of meaning between them. Consequently, the possibilities of any kind of direct and intentional intervention by clients in the consultant system appear limited. Hence, a different, more moderate concept of intervention is needed. For that we draw on Helmut Willke’s concept of “contextual guidance”: instead of any direct interventions in the consultant system, the systemic perspective (1) points to the necessity for self-guidance on behalf of the client and (2) directs interventions to the context of the contact system.

Abstract

The aim of this article is to provide a new theoretical perspective on the possibilities for clients to manage their consultants. The existing perspectives on managing consultants share the voluntaristic assumption that in principle it is possible to manage the consultant–client relationship. In this article we introduce a new and opposed systemic perspective. From a systems-theoretical point of view, clients and consultants can be conceptualized as two autopoietic communication systems that operate according to idiosyncratic logics. They are structurally coupled through a third system, the so-called “contact system”, which itself constitutes a separate system. Due to the different logics of the three systems there is a barrier to the transfer of meaning between them. Consequently, the possibilities of any kind of direct and intentional intervention by clients in the consultant system appear limited. Hence, a different, more moderate concept of intervention is needed. For that we draw on Helmut Willke’s concept of “contextual guidance”: instead of any direct interventions in the consultant system, the systemic perspective (1) points to the necessity for self-guidance on behalf of the client and (2) directs interventions to the context of the contact system.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Event End Date:13 August 2008
Deposited On:23 Feb 2009 11:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2017 03:11
Official URL:http://meeting.aomonline.org/2008/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

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