Sunday, 8 November 2009


If power is an important element for collaboration (as someone has argued to me), then how does it fit in with engagement?

You can't have collaboration with unequal power. And how does power fit in with social capital?

The power-influence matrix is one that consultants use to analyse their key stakeholders, though I find little evidence that clients are aware of this, or do it themselves. Who consultants make the effort to engage with and how, depends on the results of their analysis of power-influence. Therefore power and influence must come into any model of engagement. But is power a facet of communication or of knowledgeability, or is it some separate dimension?

Power could be in:
  • contacts and connections (could be strong social capital)
  • dominant norms or cultures (including physical, and norms are included in the relational dimension of social capital in Nahapiet & Ghoshal's model)
  • informal networks (social capital again)
  • control and information
Etzioni 1975 writes on power, as do Pugh et al 1989. They say power comes in one of the following forms:
  • coercive (physical) power
  • remunerative or utilitarian (material)
  • normative or identitive (symbolic) like the way someone dresses I suppose. See {Kaarst-Brown, 1999 #91}
An old OU MBA unit (B800) diagrammed overlapping forms of visible power: position, expert power, personal power and dependence.

  • Expert power comes with knowledge and skills, and is, I believe, part of engagement
  • Position power influences who has to be engaged in relationships.
  • Dependence power could be held by lower levels in the management chain who also have expertise.
  • Personal power comes with people, like someone I heard called "a friendly sort of bloke".
Power is negotiated, isn't it? So are all these types of power negotiated somehow? Something doesn't quite fit in the context of client-consultant relationships. I remember Sturdy (1997) wrote about the insecurity of the consultant so how does that insecurity work with power? Can't consultants make managers feel insecure too ? {Ernst, 2002}.

These cogitations imply I've got more work to do to answer my own questions.

ETZIONI, A. (1975) A comparative analysis of complex organizations. IN PUGH, D. S., HICKSON, D. J. AND HININGS, C. R (Ed.) Writers on organizations. 2 ed. New York,
Harmondsworth, Penguin Modern Management,
The Free Press.
KAARST-BROWN, M. L. (1999) Five symbolic roles of the external consultant: Integrating change, power and symbolism. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 12, 540-561.
STURDY, A. (1997) The consultancy process - an insecure business? Journal of Management Studies, 34.
ERNST, B. & KIESER, A. (2002) Consultants as agents of anxiety and providers of managerial control. Academy of Management Proceedings. Academy of Management.

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