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2012/2013  KAN-CM_B132  The Challenge of Managing Professional Services and Knowledge Intensive Firms

English Title
The Challenge of Managing Professional Services and Knowledge Intensive Firms

Course information

Language English
Exam ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Course period Spring
Changes in course schedule may occur
Thursday 08.00-10.35, week 6,8-13,15-17
Time Table Please see course schedule at e-Campus
Max. participants 45
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Frans Bevort - Department of Organization
Administration: Ane Lindgren Hassing - alh.ioa@cbs.dk
Main Category of the Course
  • Management
  • Organization
Last updated on 07-05-2012
Learning objectives
The course’s development of personal competences:
This course prepares you with analytical frameworks necessary for understanding a professional service firm. If you plan to work in a firm in the professional services industry, manage their services for your employing corporation or directly assume the challenge of managing professionals, this course is for you.

Specific objectives are:
  • know and understand the specific dynamics and peculiarities of the function of professional service firms and knowledge intensive firms
  • be aware of and able to describe the differences between traditional bureaucratic organizations and professional and other knowledge intensive firms
  • understand and be able to explain and reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of the way traditional professional firms has traditionally been organized
  • understand and be able to explain and reflect upon the (changing) relationship between buyers and vendors, clients and advisors, organizations and professional service firms/knowledge intensive firms.
  • understand and be able to explain and reflect upon the development of the professional service firm in the modern economy
  • understand and be able to explain and reflect upon the current research developments focussing on professional service firms and knowledge intensive firms
The course will presuppose knowledge of organization theory and behavioral sciences at a level equivalent to bachelor of administration.
Oral exam based on a miniproject
Oral exam based on a miniproject:
Type of test Oral with Written Assignment
Marking scale 7-step scale
Second examiner Second internal examiner
Exam period May/June
Aids Please, see the detailed regulations below
Duration 20 Minutes
Course content

From law, engineering and consulting firms to architectural, software design and advertising agencies, professional service firms (PSFs) are the fastest growing sector in the global economy. Managing such firms, however, is very challenging. They are composed of very smart, well educated and independent individuals who, typically, enjoy an unusually high degree of geographical and career mobility. These professionals also serve multiple roles at once in these organizations; acting simultaneously as owners, managers and workers. Managerial challenges arise in the competitive marketplace as well. Historically, PSF’s have been bound by tradition and professional regulation that has suppressed normal competitive activities like advertising and marketing. Increasingly, however, PSF’s are being forced to engage in more contemporary competitive practices. Unlike most corporations and non-professional firms, however, PSF’s occupy a unique position in society. Professionals, and PSF’s, often hold ethical obligations and duties to parties other than their clients. The events surrounding Enron and the collapse of the venerable accounting firm Arthur Andersen provide testament to both the complicated ethical position of PSF’s and the consequences that can occur when they are not adequately attended to.

This course provides an introduction to the complex, challenging and fascinating issues involved in the management and organization of professional service firms.

Teaching methods
The course combines both theoretical and applied materials. Emphasis is placed upon case discussion. Visiting speakers supplement the materials.
Expected literature

Cooper, D. J., Hinings, B., Greenwood, R., & Brown, J. L. (1996). Sedimentation and transformation organizational change: The case of canadian law firms.Organization Studies, (17/4), 623-647.

Ejler, N. Czerniawska, F. & Poulfelt, F (2011): Managing the Knowledge Intensive Firm. Routledge.

Greenwood, R., & Hinings, C.R. and Brown, J. (1990). The P2-form, strategic management: Corporate practices in professional partnerships.Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 725–755,

Maister, D. H. (2003). Managing the professional service firm Simon & Schuster, UK, Ltd.


Bévort, Frans (2011): The Making of Manager Roles, Identities and Work in a Professional Service Firm: Analyzing Contradicting Institutional Logics at Interaction Level (Unpublished).

Last updated on 07-05-2012