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In this article we posit the potential utility of a practitioner archive as data for teaching those studying anthropology to understand and perhaps also to practice organisational research and consultancy ethnographically. We address both the value and challenges of taking a purposively ethnographic approach to organisational work, as these both reflect and may also inform the values and challenges of teaching ethnographically more generally within anthropology programmes. The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations is a not-for-profit social science research and organisational consultancy of charitable status, based in London and in formal operation since 1947. Drawing on archived historical projects of the Institute, we illustrate and explore how a distinctively ethnographic approach to action-orientated research (research undertaken in and with client organisations, which is put into action by implementing changes which are designed to address the organisation’s needs) was achieved in a context of market and other constraints.