Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to propose a solution to the challenges of professional service firms (PSF), which are referred to as cat herding, opaque quality and lack of process standardization. These result from misalignment in the mental pictures that managers, employees and customers have of the service. The study demonstrates how the process of articulating a shared service concept reduces these challenges. Design/methodology/approach: A narrative methodology is used to analyze the perspectives of old management, new management and employees during organizational change in a PSF – a website design company growing to offer full-service branding. Group narratives are constructed using longitudinal data gathered through interviews and fieldwork, in order to compare the misaligned mental pictures and show the benefits of articulating the service concept. Findings: Professional employees view growth and change as threats to their culture and practice, particularly when new management seeks to standardize processes. These threats are revealed to stem from misinterpretations caused by miscommunication of intentions and lack of participation in decision making. Articulating a shared service concept helps to align understanding and return the firm to equilibrium. Research limitations/implications: The narrative methodology helps unpack conflicting perspectives, but is open to claims of subjectivity and misrepresentation. To ensure fairness and trustworthiness, informants were invited to review and approve the narratives. Originality/value: The study contributes propositions related to the value of articulating a shared service concept as a means of minimizing the challenges of PSFs.
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