Managing Expectations. Consultancy and Corporate Decision-Making in Germany after 1965 (DFG SPP 1859)

This project examines the rise of consultancies and their impact on corporate decisionmaking
in Germany after 1965. We argue that the growth of the consulting industry
was due to a dynamic transfer of experiences between consultants and the client
companies. This led to a growing influence on business expectations and corporate
decision-making. We consider this to be a multilevel process: By promoting best
practice management tools, consultants re-adjusted the relationship between “internal”
and “external” experience within companies. Through their reports, articles, and books,
consultants acted as providers of expectations about future changes in business and
management. They explicitly linked problems of organization and strategy. The new
management tools changed corporate decision-making, for instance by organizational
re-structuring or the implementation of scientific instruments of expectation formation.
Historical research has come to ambiguous results, portraying consultants either as
providers of additional legitimacy to management boards or as pioneers of corporate
To determine the role of consultants empirically, we adopt a three-step research
approach: First, we will sketch the evolution of the consulting industry and examine its
growth in terms of scope and level of professionalization. Second, we analyze
consultants´ narratives of the future and investigate the dissemination of “management
fashions” in business journals. For this purpose, we will build an extensive text
database and adopt a text mining approach for our analysis. Third and foremost, we
will explore the role of consultants in German companies after 1965 from a business
history perspective. For the first time, this allows us to systematically study the
implementation of management tools on the company level and their impact on
corporate decision-making. We will build our empirical analysis on a large set of
untapped business records from three different branches: automobile, chemical, and

Principal investigators
Nützenadel, Alexander Prof. Dr. (Details) (Social and Economic History)

DFG: Sachbeihilfe

Duration of project
Start date: 04/2019
End date: 04/2023

Last updated on 2023-24-01 at 06:05