This project examines the rise of consultancies and their impact on corporate decision-making in Germany after 1965. We argue that the growth of the consulting industry was due to a dynamic transfer of experiences between consultants and the client companies. This led to a growing influence on business expectations and corporate decision-making. We consider this to be a multilevel process: By promoting best practice management tools, consultants re-adjusted the relationship between “internal” and “external” experience within companies. Through their reports, articles, and books, consultants acted as providers of expectations about future changes in business and management. They explicitly linked problems of organization and strategy. The new management tools changed corporate decision-making, for instance by organizational re-structuring or the implementation of scientific instruments of expectation formation. Historical research has come to ambiguous results, portraying consultants either as providers of additional legitimacy to management boards or as pioneers of corporate change.
To determine the role of consultants empirically, we adopt a three-step research approach: First, we will sketch the evolution of the consulting industry and examine its growth in terms of scope and level of professionalization. Second, we analyse consultants´ narratives of the future and investigate the dissemination of “management fashions” in business journals. Third and foremost, we will explore the role of consultants in German companies after 1965 from a business history perspective. This allows us to study the implementation of management tools on the company level and their impact on corporate decision-making systematically. We will build our empirical analysis on a large set of untapped business records from three different branches: automobile, chemical, and electronics.