Dealing with competing demands in creative professional service firms

Beatrice Manzoni (Speaker), Leentje Volker (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Presentation at the 8th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies, Corfu, Greece.
Despite their business relevance creative professional service firms are under-researched, in particular with regard to how they acquire work. Competing for work is key to survival, but also extremely challenging due to the complexity of the services offered and finding the right balance between delivering a service and being a creative professional. In this paper, we use a paradox framework to investigate the competing demands creative professional service firms experience when competing for work. Based on a set of semi-structured interviews in the context of architectural competitions, we show that creative professional service firms face two interwoven paradoxes: 1) a strategic intent paradox - aiming at winning while investing in other strategic goals - and 2) a design intent paradox - selling an envisioning promise while remaining a credible service provider. We describe these paradoxes as well as how organizations manage and cope with them through both synthesizing and separation management approaches. Contributions of this study can be found in theorising paradoxes of competing for work from the professional service provider’s perspective, and in fostering firms’ paradoxical mind-set, which facilitates the acceptance and resolution of complexity and different competing demands in management processes.
Period16 Jun 2016
Event title8th International Symposium on Process Organization Studies
Event typeConference
LocationCorfu, Greece


  • management approaches
  • competing for work
  • architectural competitions
  • creative professional service firms
  • paradoxes