On Monday the 11th of September, the MCA (Management Consultancies Association) hosted yet another well received Roundtable Lunch event. Will Harvey, Associate Professor of Management Studies at the University of Exeter, and Tim Morris, Professor of Management Studies at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, spoke regarding their recently published research on reputation, marketing and value in the management consulting industry.
The MCA hold other roundtable events throughout the year with different leading practitioners to review and discuss current topics. If you are interested in attending a future roundtable, please don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Reputation and Identity Conflict
After giving initial context, Prof. Harvey and Prof. Morris began to rationalise two contributions made in the literature of reputation and identity by examining how an organisation responds when its identity is substantially misaligned with the experience and perceptions of external stakeholders that form the basis of reputational judgments (Harvey W, Morris T, Santos MM (2016) Reputation and Identity Conflict in Management Consulting, Human Relations 70 (1): 92-118.).
First, rather than triggering some form of identity revision, they defined how other forms of identity can come into play to remediate this gap, cushioning the organisation’s identity from adjustment. This change to other individual identities is enabled by a low organisational identity context even when the identity of a firm is clear and strong.
The second contribution however relates to the conceptualisation of consulting. It was explained how reputation and identity interact in the context of the distinctive organisational features of firms. Notably, their loosely coupled structure and the central importance of expert knowledge claims enable individual consultants both to reinforce and supplement corporate reputation via individual identity work.
Having coined the phrase ‘Reputation Conflict’ to describe said misaligned situation, Prof. Harvey highlighted the importance of remediation in a pragmatic manner. It’s no surprise that organisations have to work at altering their reputation, but it must be noted that it requires self-awareness about what aspects are malleable (psychological means) and what are sticky (relative reputation). It was also established that a new reputation is not a pre-determine destination, it emerges over time. This lead participants to draw on their own experiences and raised the importance of culture and purpose in this scenario.