Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore and construct a model for the mechanisms for authorization of actors in contemporary society performing in the role of the expert.
Design/methodology/approach – The study used qualitative analyses of about 70 interviews with management consultants in small/middle-sized nationally based (in Sweden) consultancies, and with buyers in public organizations of their services. The data are, however, expected to represent more general tendencies of the mechanisms for authorization of experts such as management consultants. The interviews were seen as narratives from the field and interpreted qualitatively in order to search for patterns and categories.
Findings – Systems for professionalism in practice among experts such as management consultants do not follow the routes suggested by traditional theories of professions. It is another system for professionalism where success in commercialisation means authorization in the role of the expert on the market. The mechanism for authorization is trust and the way to construct this is that the single expert and the organizations he or she represents emphasize versatility, availability, relevance and differentiation in their practice as experts.
Research limitations/implications – There is a growth in numbers, competence areas and importance of these forms of expert work in contemporary society. Understanding this is necessary and this study offers a model that explains this.
Practical implications – Markets for vague forms of experts, such as management consultants, are emerging. These are challenges faced by many individuals and organizations today.
Social implications – More individuals work under consulting conditions, more organizations tend to hire more external experts of various kinds on temporary bases instead of employing them, and the number of expert organizations is emerging and their size is increasing.
Originality/value – Little attention has been devoted to explanations of how authorization in practice is constructed and achieved among the new experts. This study offers a model for how this can be understood.
2013. Vol. 26, no 2, 265-285 p.