Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Managing Client Relations: The Case of Peter Vosek

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Managing Client Relations: The Case of Peter Vosek

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this role play case is the interpersonal skills needed to handle a difficult client situation involving power and trust. Since difficult situations often stem from people having different goals, different approaches, and/or different personal styles, diagnosing and attending to these differences are fundamental to resolving both the interpersonal and task-related issues. Resolving difficult situations and retaining the relationship often requires planful dialogue--communications that: (1) are open to and respectful of the others' point of view,(2) treat others' as equals in the situation, and (3) seek to understand the others' views and the assumptions underlying those views. The role play case has a difficulty of five (graduate). It is designed to be used within 50-80 minutes. No outside preparation is necessary.


The "Peter Vosek Case" and roles for a role play (totaling 4 pages) present the same management consulting engagement from different perspectives. Peter, the officer in charge (OIC) of the engagement, and Joan, the job manager for one of the five teams on the project, relate their perceptions of the different stakeholders involved in this project and the challenges of managing these stakeholders.

CRC (a top tier international management consulting firm) is hired by a chemical manufacturer to lead a large service implementation project. Early in the project, Peter's counterpart on the project, the Corporate Manager of Service, is replaced. Peter finds it difficult to maintain a good working relationship with his new counterpart, Senal Dhola. His project is falling behind schedule, and he finds himself in a situation in which he has little access to the top management team of the company. We see Peter pondering how to turn the engagement around and prepare an effective, mid-engagement presentation for the top management group.

Joan Charoen is the job manager (senior associate) for the information technology (IT) team on the project. Joan has created a collaborative environment for her team, which is composed of both CRC consulting staff and managers from the chemical company. Joan believes the senior members of the consulting team need to actively strategize ways to gain buy-in for the project from the company's top management.


The context for these cases is a large consulting engagement with a major multinational client. This engagement lasted more than a year and involved 25-30 consultants. The case reflects actual events, although disguised. The project billed over $6 million dollars in its first year. Resources that might be of use to both the instructor and students include David Maister's books on running a professional services firm (1993), on being a consultant (1997), and on becoming a trusted advisor (Maister, Green, & Galford, 2000). His web site is very rich and user-friendly.

O'Shea and Madigan (1997) share their observations on the dark side of consulting--something of which the CEO, Shawn Walsh, seems aware. Fombrun and Nevins (2004) have edited a useful resource book on consulting, involving many of this industries best writers and researchers. Williams (2001, 2004) explores the issues of trust in professional service relationships. Stumpf (1999) addresses the career progression for consultants--something on the mind of Joan Charoen. Stumpf and Longman (2000) discuss the key skills and approaches to management consulting. Stumpf, Doh, & Clark (2002) explore the structure and work processes of management consulting.

Teaching Objectives

The combined case and role play activities have four objectives. The first is to have all students learn how to look at an engagement from multiple perspectives--their 'personal' perspective, that of their officer in charge (OIC), that of their consulting company (CRC), and that of the client leadership. …

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