Sub-theme 22: Governing the "Ungovernable": Academics, Consultants, Journalists ---> Merged with sub-theme 24


Call for Papers

This sub-theme looks at how business schools, management consultants and business media became increasingly powerful in defining what “good management” is and telling managers how to organize and run their organizations (Engwall et al., 2016), while at the same time academics, consultants and journalists are less enthusiastic to espouse the same management principles and practices for their own organizations. This has become most apparent in the recent period, but, as a tension, seems to have been present from the outset.
Against this backdrop the theme focuses on the governance of the three authorities on management, namely, business schools, management consultants and business media. This is particularly important in relation to their expansion in modern society. Business education has today one of the largest, not to say the largest, population of students in a growing number of academic institutions world-wide. Business education has in this way become the background of many corporate leaders and its content has penetrated not only corporations but also other types of organizations as well. Similarly, management consulting has developed into a very important feature of the modern world giving advice to business as well as public organizations, thereby shaping their behaviour in significant ways. On top of business schools and management consultants business media has developed into a vital disseminator of management ideas by providing text-books for business schools, and publishing the books of management consultants and successful executives as well as scientific journals.
The above has had the effect that business schools, management consultants and business media have become strong authorities on management by telling others how to govern modern organizations. Under these circumstances it is both appropriate and important to look closer at the governance of the three authorities themselves both in terms of external governing forces and in terms of internal management.
As for business schools they have during the past few decades experienced increasing external pressures through various kinds of evaluations, rankings and accreditations. These are to a high extent linked to the growing attention paid to publishing in top journals. This in turn has had the internal effect that deans and heads of departments more and more are stressing the need for such publications thereby to a certain extent downplaying the educational role of business schools (see further, e.g., Frost et al., 2016).
Also with respect to management consultants rankings play a role. However, consultants are not ranked according to what they deliver, since the relationship between cause and effect is very difficult to establish. Consultants are instead ranked according to their revenues, thereby making the largest more visible giving them a stronger brand, while the quality of their services is seldom measured. Similarly, the revenues of individual consultants constitute the measure of success, thereby sorting out who are going “up or out” (i.e. becoming partners or leaving the firm). Needless to say, this has important implications for the management of consultancies as professional organizations (see further, e.g., Kipping & Clark, 2012).
Business media, finally, like the consultants are to a considerable extent evaluated by sales figures in terms of text-books, dailies and weeklies, while academic publications are evaluated by citations figures. These measures of success tend to lead to self-reinforcing spirals giving dominant actors more and more attention over time. Not even retractions due to misconduct in academic journals appear to counterbalance this process. Business media has also the peculiar feature that a lot of work is outsourced to authors and reviewers, particularly with respect to academic journals. At the same time gatekeeping is key principle for the management of what has become more and more multi-media organizations (see further, e.g,. Albarran et al., 2006).
Against the above backdrop the sub-theme aims to shed some light on the governance of business schools, management consultants and business media by inviting both conceptual and empirical papers. We, particularly but not only, welcome submissions that examine:

  • The role of external assessments of business schools, management consultants and business media. How did they manage to acquire such definitional power over management, and how has that power been challenged from the outside?
  • The interdependencies between business schools, management consultants and business media in governance. To what extent are these three authorities influencing each other in terms of external relations and internal organization?
  • The governance principles of business schools, management consultants and the business media. What are their logics of organization and management?
  • The dynamics of governance. To what extent and in what direction are the governance principles of the three authorities changing over time and space?
  • The reaction of those being governed. What have been the attempts to “managerialize” business schools, consulting firms and media organizations and how have those working there reacted and with what outcomes?


  • Albarran, A.B., Chan-Olmsted, S.M., & Wirth, M.O. (eds.) (2006): Handbook of Media Management and Economics. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
  • Engwall, L., Kipping, M., & Üsdiken, B. (2016): Defining Management: Business Schools, Consultants, Media. New York: Routledge.
  • Kipping, M., & Clark, T. (eds.). (2012): The Oxford Handbook of Management Consulting. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Frost, J., Hattke, F., & Reihlen, M. (2016): Multi-Level Governance in Universities Strategy, Structeure, Control. New York: Springer.