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Title: Secondary rites and the becoming of a consultant : the development of a processual account
Author: McKenzie, C. L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 4881
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis offers an account of what it is to work at the margins of organisations. It does this by developing a processual account of liminality, to explore the becomings of consultants working in creative, unsettling and precarious positions, on a boundary that is always in the making. Contemporary discourses about the lived experiences of management consultants have stimulated a growing body of work attempting to recast the role of management consultants beyond those of knowledge brokers, scapegoats and legitimisers of management ideas. In particular, this involves understanding the how consultants build and maintain client relations over time. Operating in a boundary sphere, consultants are frequently portrayed to cross, straddle, or permeate a number of different spaces. However, a lack of theoretical insight and empirical enquiries into their day-to-day activities means that still little is known about how such boundaries may be theorised and how such boundary activity unfolds. Therefore, this thesis explores the question: how do consultants experience and make sense of their day-to-day activities whilst working on the threshold of organisation both physically and socially? In this dissertation I draw on the organisational literature on boundaries to elicit extant theorisations and empirical accounts detailing peripheral activity. I focus in particular on the notion of liminality and I argue that the predominant interpretation of this concept in organisation studies provides only a limited characterisation of the intricate and transformative processes that unfold when individuals traverse through boundaries. Drawing on the nascent process theoretical works in organization studies, I then turn to the works of Chia and Cooper as well as their peripheral sources, Spencer Brown, Simmel, and Bateson, to develop a processual account of organizational boundaries which conceives of the boundary of organisation as being always in the making; a shifting space of possibility whose traversing has existential effects. Equipped with these theoretical foundations, I return to the origins of liminality in form of anthropologist van Gennep's 'secondary rites', pursuing the theoretical question: If creative renewal is the primal force, then how do we open ourselves to the possibilities and dispositions within a liminal phase? To answer this question, I elaborate an account of liminality based on a process-theoretical reading of van Gennep's work, emphasising movement through the transmission of difference. The empirical part of this dissertation consists of an extended study of a small consultancy and, in particular the journey of a consultant in his first year of work, through the methodological apparatus of shadowing, interviews, observations and participant diaries. I find is that there is a particular feeling of unsettledness, precariousness, even trepidation experienced by the consultants as they continually negotiate what or who they are and in drawing - and crossing -boundaries, they come to revisit their senses of self and other continually. I also find that focusing on van Gennep's secondary rites are insightful precisely because they do not operate with the idea of fixed, objective spaces, but because they emphasise the facilitation of something not yet formed of something always other that drives the consultant experiences through transitional periods. This work contributes theoretically to the boundary literature therefore linked to the recovery of van Gennep's work; to the reading and amalgamation of Cooper and Simmel adding both to the boundary literature and liminality. Empirically, I offer a longitudinal case study to the literature, contributing towards bridging the gap between theoretical insight and empirical analysis.
Supervisor: Sturdy, Andrew ; Brown, Gary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral