Spoilt for Choice: How senior managers select professional advisors

by Wienke Seeger

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How do senior executives, such as CEOs and CFOs, interact, select and appoint professional advisors?

Based on a successful PhD project, the research in this book explores the interactions between advisors of large professional service firms and senior executive clients on an evidence-based academic level.

The research journey and the author’s reflections are charted step-by-step, providing an example of how to analyse unstructured qualitative data, reach theoretical saturation and capture emerging substantive theories. Moreover, by taking a unique holistic and inductive approach, this study offers a series of practical insights on how to combine and apply Kathy Charmaz’ constructivist grounded theory with an auto-ethnographic stance.

Divided into eight chapters, the author uses empirical data and rigorous analysis to uncover two distinct decision-making processes, namely (a) the client’s decision to develop and maintain a relationship with the advisor and (b) to select and appoint the advisor for a particular project or services. Mapping these to one common conceptual framework a second complementary model emerges - a type of decision-making matrix with the foci ’competitiveness, skills and merit’, ‘continuity and embeddedness’, ‘control and manage’ and ‘trust and empathy’ - which offers the reader an alternative perspective of client decision-making.

This book will be useful for practitioners and researchers alike who have an interest in understanding either naturalistic decision-making processes, the complexities of relationship development and procurement dynamics, as well as applied qualitative research methods.



List of Figures

List of Tables

Chapter 1: Starting point – impetus and background for the research journey
1.1. Introduction and overview
1.2 Background and context
1.3 Study based on personal journey
1.4 Impetus and motivations

Chapter 2: Foundation – research design, methods and tools
2.1 Research purpose and methodologies
2.2. Applied features of constructivists grounded theory
2.3 Applied features of auto-ethnography
2.4. Additional research design aspects: data and tools
2.5 Assessing the outcomes

Chapter 3: Discovery – selecting and making sense of the data, exploring the phenomena
3.1 Data exploration and theoretical sampling – first three open coding iterations
3.2 Demarcating and firming up research focus – fourth open coding iteration
3.3 Summing up the discovery phase and progressing the research journey
3.4 Existing decision-making theory literature – sources of new ideas and perspectives

Chapter 4: Theory building – emerging conceptual framework and theoretical saturation
4.1 Naturalistic decision-making – the most appropriate context?
4.2 Image theory – a rich source of inspiration and new perspectives
4.3 Emerging conceptual framework
4.4 Closed coding, data validation and theoretical saturation
4.5 Preliminary set of findings – first steps towards a substantive theory

Chapter 5: Emerging models – analysis of findings with applied theoretical sensitivity shape first theories
5.1 Analytical approach taken
5.2 Results of component analysis
5.3 Component analysis conclusions inform construct analysis
5.4 Summary of results from four key construct analysis
5.5 Emergence of clearly identifiable leitmotifs
5.6 Consolidation and amalgamation of findings

Chapter 6: Theory rationalisation – substantive theoretical models discussed and pointers for the literature review
6.1 Summary of substantive theory and models
6.2 Organisational context and past experiences – key influencing streams
6.3 Client-advisor rapport – a multifaceted and reiterative ongoing process
6.4 Project or service trajectory and key influencers
6.5 Linking rapport and appointment decisions
6.6. Pointers for the literature review

Chapter 7: Comparison of emerging theory with literature findings; discussion and reflection
7.1 Approach to the literature review
7.2 Overview of literature findings
7.3 Comparison of the two literature debates
7.4 Mapping literature findings to the research project
7.5 Summary of findings and first reflections

Chapter 8: Conclusions, reflections and implications – inferences for client organisations, professional services firms and academia
8.1 Conclusions
8.2 Implications for professional service firms, client organisations and academia
8.3 Limitations and opportunities for further research
8.4 Reflections on research outcomes and approach taken


Appendix A: Final coding framework, code definitions and classifications

Appendix B: Example of senior executive profile utilised as part of the analysis


Wienke Seeger has held various client facing and operational roles for a number of professional service firms over the past 20 years. She has extensive experience in client relationship programmes, ranging from strategic initiatives to operational programmes, as well as large-scale systems implementations. Her academic interest and research in decision-making theories has been inherently informed by her professional experiences; understanding client motivations, preferences and expectations and how these feature in different decision making situations has been a key focus in Wienke's career.

Constructivist grounded theory, grounded theory, image theory, NDM naturalistic decision-making, auto-ethnographic approach, inductive research, qualitative research, Professional services, Big Four, accounting firms, client relationships, appointment of advisors, professional advisors, selection of advisor, trusted advisor, procurement/purchasing of professional services, Kathy Charmaz, Tony Bryant, Lee Roy Beach, David Maister, Michael Mohe

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Spoilt for Choice: How senior managers select professional advisors
Number of pages
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
26 Color
Publication date
May 2019