Why are there so Few Cases of Professional Service Firms?
Volume: 12 Number: 1 Year: 2012

Shiva Kumar Srinivasan

Why is it that there are so few cases about professional service firms (PSFs) given their increasing dominance in the knowledge-based era? The attempt to answer this question presupposes a willingness to differentiate between what strategy professors mean by strategy and what strategy consultants mean by strategy. This perspective essay argues that the development of strategy in the business academy and in strategy consultancies has happened on parallel tracks. There has not been as much interaction between these strategists as would be desirable, albeit with some exceptions. These exceptions happen when consultancies have been spun-off from the theoretical work of top academic strategists. However, since these theoretical exchanges are few and far between, academics have focused mainly on developing general frameworks while the consultants have concentrated on building specific forms of knowledge through intense tracking of industrial segments known as ‘verticals’, and in presenting their findings as granular insights. The role models of strategic cognition and the outlets where results of such studies are reported using these approaches also vary considerably. The revitalization of the case method in management education however demands not only the willingness to write more cases about professional service firms on the part of academics in business schools, but also the availability and the deployment of interdisciplinary approaches to the case method analogous to those that have ‘defamiliarized’ the case method in the U.S. law school system.

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