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Negotiating imitation: Examining the interactions of consultants and their clients to understand institutionalization as translation

Gill, Michael J.; McGivern, Gerry; Sturdy, Andrew; Pereira, Sandra; Gill, David J.; Dopson, Sue


Michael J. Gill

Gerry McGivern

Andrew Sturdy

Sandra Pereira

Professor of International Relations

Sue Dopson


Organizational scholars increasingly view institutionalization as a process through which actors adapt or translate seemingly successful practices in a field to create variations that are specific to their own organization. Yet little is known about how outsiders who seek to diffuse ‘best practice’ affect translation. We examined interactions between management consultants and their clients in two different consulting projects, which focused on embedding the practice of ‘lean’ in one and the practice of a quality improvement framework in the other. Our findings provide insights into the processes of translation through which promoters and adopters iterate at different stages to reach a compromise, illuminating how the evolution of an imported practice signals the outcome of a negotiation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that management practices are not translated in isolation but enveloped by peripheral practices that are adopted by association. We highlight how the peripheral practice of benchmarking, in both cases, was rarely contested or negotiated and thus proved more resistant to translation. Our analysis allows us to unpack the agency inherent within translation-as-negotiation and integrate research on diffusion and translation.


Gill, M. J., McGivern, G., Sturdy, A., Pereira, S., Gill, D. J., & Dopson, S. (2020). Negotiating imitation: Examining the interactions of consultants and their clients to understand institutionalization as translation. British Journal of Management, 31(3), 470-486.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 9, 2019
Publication Date 2020-07
Deposit Date May 31, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jun 10, 2021
Journal British Journal of Management
Print ISSN 1045-3172
Electronic ISSN 1467-8551
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 3
Pages 470-486
Keywords Management of Technology and Innovation; Strategy and Management; General Business, Management and Accounting
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Gill, M. J., McGivern, G. , Sturdy, A. , Pereira, S. , Gill, D. J. and Dopson, S. (2019), Negotiating Imitation: Examining the Interactions of Consultants and Clients to Understand Institutionalization as Translation. Brit J Manage, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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