International Review of Administrative Sciences

http://ras.sagepub.com Four ideal-type organizational responses to New Public Management reforms and some consequences
Tor Hernes International Review of Administrative Sciences 2005; 71; 5 DOI: 10.1177/0020852305051680 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ras.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/71/1/5

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whereby the tension is handled constructively through internal structural and cultural differentiation.1177/0020852305051680] Downloaded from http://ras. Third. such as contracting out. Efficiency is sought through methods such as decentralization of authority to the technical levels while ensuring accountability to society at large. Alternatively.sagepub. The present article explores. in the sense of decoupling between espoused and enacted practices. organic adaptation. All rights reserved. whereby unresolved conflict leads to a stand-off situation between management and staff. Thousand Oaks. loose coupling between functions and individuals. New Public Management (NPM) accentuates the inherent tension between the logics of service and accountability respectively in local public administration.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. The traditional dual role of public administration is both to be at the service of the local community and to enforce legislation and standards stipulated by the political Tor Hernes is Professor at the Norwegian School of Management BI. Copyright © 2005 IIAS. paralysis. The organizational dilemma posed by NPM New Public Management (NPM) may be defined broadly as a set of ideas and methods that aim to combine accountability and efficiency in public administration. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. . Oslo. from an organization theory perspective. Second. Fourth. The article identifies four possible ideal-type organizational responses to NPM. SAGE Publications (London. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. ritualistic decoupling. it may imply the creation of market mechanisms for the delivery of services. for this article. it is retained that NPM represents a dual focus on service to the public and accountability to society at large. and adjunct Professor at Oslo University College. There is no real unifying definition of what these ideas and methods are but. possible organizational responses to tensions created by the introduction of NPM. Possible causes and consequences of each of these responses for management are discussed.International Review of Administrative Sciences Four ideal-type organizational responses to New Public Management reforms and some consequences Tor Hernes Abstract With its dual focus on service and accountability. First. CA and New Delhi) Vol 71(1):5–17 [DOI:10.

for example. In this particular case. Service implies attention to individual needs. A study by Højlund and la Cour (2003) of the reform of elderly care in Danish local government suggests that when accountability was introduced through standardized and centralized procedures. In this case. At an organizational level. In other words. They conclude from their study that accountability is no guarantee for performance. citizens are served. eventually leading to a hearing in the Copenhagen City Council. Studies of public administration point out the inherent tensions caused by the introduction of NPM logics (e. It implies communication and readiness to serve locals as customers. which again increases their scope for influence on institutional decisionmaking processes as well as the distribution of organizational resources. culture is an uncertain and unpredictable way of obtaining intended results across the board of many agencies of public administration. Hovdal (2004). on the one hand. Kaufman points out how the forest service fostered a strong internal cohesion in order to help the forest rangers operating alone in local communities to resist the ‘centrifugal forces’ from the local community. Kaufman’s solution is the fostering of culture. All rights reserved. Lynn. it requires local authority agents to engage with the citizen as an individual and not just as a member of a community. in contrast. it does not establish a relationship to a person’ (Weber. there are signs that NPM tends to exacerbate tensions between the logics of service and accountability.g. the basis of the service tends to be contact (‘bottom-up’). 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. however. a structural intervention with a system of formal and tangible criteria and mechanisms aiming to increase efficiency and accountability. It implies. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. In the former logic. whereas the basis of accountability tends towards surveillance (‘top-down’). Whereas agents in a service logic are expected to practice professional expertise. A classic study of inherent tensions is that by Kaufman (1967) of rangers in the US forest service. the logic was changed from a typical elderly care system based on personal contact and trust between client and agent towards a system where the contact was governed by contracts which were again monitored by the administration.6 International Review of Administrative Sciences 71(1) system at the wish of society as a whole. NPM is. this implies responsibility devolved to professionals. in the latter the relations between citizens and agents are administered. yet performance can but with difficulty come about without accountability. first and foremost. in the pure form. At an organizational level. 2000). Although there are relatively few studies to date focusing explicitly on the organizational tensions following in the wake of the introduction of NPM. in order to achieve equitable fairness of treatment: ‘It is decisive for the modern loyalty to an office that. in an accountability logic agents are expected to practice administrative expertise. . on the other hand (Højlund and la Cour. tensions and ambiguity arose. the frustrations went beyond the local organizational context and caused repercussions in media. from a study of local reform in Norway. 2003: 286). and regulatory demands. Aucoin and Heintzmann (2000). 1968: 959. points towards a similar phenomeDownloaded from http://ras. Accountability. point to obvious tensions between accountability and performance. Aucoin and Heintzmann. emphasis in the original). common criteria. implies distance. Frustration arose from agents having to cope with incompatibility between the traditional institutional norms of care. 1998. Service implies proximity to the local population. It requires flexibility and the application of expertise in technical and social matters. leading to disruptive conflict.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28.sagepub. treatment based on objective. in the spirit of Weber’s bureaucracy.

between actors and attempts. for example. are not conclusive about the types of organizational reactions that are made in response to the introduction of NPM. Works such as that by Meyer and Rowan have been largely influential. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. In the present article. Each of these ways implies a different way of conceptualizing the relationship between organization and reform. The other three responses are referred to as paralysis. Hovdal’s study suggests that the local organization could not find a way out of the tensions. A simple schematic representation is shown in Figure 1. The responses are seen as ‘ideal-type’ responses. They work well as a generalized set of explanations. organizational responses will tend to be hybrids of the ideal-types. particularly in the study of public reform. we find work by Meyer and Rowan (1977). In practice. In this tradition. leading to stand-off and partial paralysis. a different way of conceptualizing how reform attempts tie in with the organizational structure. Each way implies. applied to a wide range of settings. which means that they are conceptualized as distinct from each other. indeed desirable.sagepub. When organizational change is seen as internal reform. showing how public organizations effectively decoupled their structures in order to appear legitimate to the outside environment while at the same time solving their problems of efficiency. in particular. the focus is on how Downloaded from http://ras. All rights reserved.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. however. it is possible. For studying the effects of a coherent approach such as NPM. however. the actual state of the organization tended to be different and more oriented towards the tasks at hand. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. as the adoption of a new approach or as a reproduction of a particular organizational logic across institutional contexts. one of which is the ritualistic decoupling observed by Meyer and Rowan (1977).Hernes Four ideal-type organizational responses to NPM 7 non. The studies mentioned earlier focus more on the reactions among staff and the corresponding organizational consequences. between reform attempts and outcomes. that managerial methods may cause reluctance among politicians because strategic leadership implies a withdrawal from the habitual proximal style of managing. it is possible to conceptualize organizational responses to the introduction of NPM. This is done by maintaining a façade reflecting the prevailing rationalized myths of good organization. to consider several possible types of organizational responses. where a wealth of studies have been undertaken to understand organizational responses to changes in the environment. loose coupling and organic adaptation. Inside the organizations. At a more aggregate level of analysis. Of particular relevance for public organizations have been studies focusing on the tension between the need for legitimacy and for efficiency. of course. Studies so far. It is not surprising that the introduction of NPM causes disruption in the form of aggravation of tensions between the logics of service and accountability. four different responses are discussed. With the introduction of NPM. strong tensions arose between professionals and administrators. . of which the decoupling response is one. Such works have a long history in organization theory. Three ways of conceptualizing public sector reform Organizational reform may be conceptualized as taking place in three different ways: as internal reform. Vabo (2000) suggests.

. They show how certain elements of NPM Downloaded from http://ras. An early study of the spreading of particular methods is Fligstein’s (1985) study of the diffusion of the M-form in firms between 1919 and 1979.sagepub. A second view of conceptualizing organizational reform is based on the idea that organization and management concepts travel across institutional contexts and are adopted partially or wholly. such as its history. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. Examples are shown by Brunsson and Olsen (1990). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. All rights reserved. Rieder and Lehmann (2002). numerous studies from an adoption perspective are undertaken in the public sector. Whereas Fligstein studied corporations in the private sector. 1994). Their finding corresponds to Moe’s (1994) argument in the case of NPM — that its successful introduction depends on a corresponding shift of culture and behaviour (Moe. for example. culture and power balances. in which he suggests that the spread of the M-form is partly explained by strategy but also by imitation. They point out an interesting paradox in that whereas the reforms themselves were rooted in a rationalist view of organizational change. the reform attempts themselves had a good dose of irrationality. senior management and the institution. largely due to failure on the part of top management to understand the power of the existing cultural mechanisms to thwart reform attempts. leadership. describe at what levels NPM reforms have taken hold in Switzerland. notably in the perception of the time and resources needed to change the prevailing institutional culture. in the case of reform at the Swedish Railway Corporation.8 International Review of Administrative Sciences 71(1) Figure 1 Three ways of conceptualizing organizational reform Diffusion to different institutions Internal reform Reproduction across institutional contexts management plans and implements change programmes. Brunsson and Olsen also point out that reform was difficult because senior management was impatient with the introduction of reforms. a main reason being that NPM represents not just a set of techniques but also a particular form of management culture. The outcomes of analyses tend to focus on whether or not a reform led to the desired results and the extent to which it did or did not is explained by the interaction between the reform. represented by influential groups or their embedded practices.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. The perspective of internal reform focuses typically on factors appropriate to the organization in question. for example. Brunsson and Olsen show how attempts at introducing ideas from the private sector in order to make the railway corporation more efficient and user-friendly stranded.

we are witnessing “structuration of the international administrative field”. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. safety and equality (Brunsson and Jacobsson. the more alike and widespread such mechanisms also become. under the spreading influence of public choice doctrines or of a revived business-based managerialism’ (Lynn. culture or power balances. we can expect such responses at the levels of practitioners. Whereas explanations may vary about whether the choice is based on needs for legitimacy or efficiency. Hence. A case in point in organization theory is the enormous extension of bureaucracy in the 20th century. When organizing concepts are reproduced in an institution. for example. 2002) of what enables some models to be adopted among great numbers of institutions in a relatively short space of time. in order for a concept to extend. In such studies. A second analytical characteristic of such studies is the assumption that as far as they are adopted by institutions the adoption is a matter of strategic choice (e. it needs to be capable of reproduction. which will lead to a certain degree of deflection. 2000). Such works are useful in that they provide a topography of how methods of organization and management are received over time and space. we are looking at a set of idealized practices that encounter an existing set of arrangements. they also continually reproduce themselves. . institutional characteristics are of lesser importance. competition and customer focus: ‘At the very least. Lynn (1996) suggests that NPM is a concept that fits with our modern conception of the world. for example. Studies focusing on adoption exhibit two analytical characteristics that distinguish them from internal reform studies discussed earlier. choice is made by central managers or decision-makers who are assumed to exercise the authority to decide on behalf of the organization. Røvik (1996. This is incontestably an important explanation of its adoption. as sociologists might put it. This is. For example. little weight is accorded to the individual institution. 2000). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.Hernes Four ideal-type organizational responses to NPM 9 have penetrated in certain functions and levels whereas others have not.e. In the case of NPM reform. in which they demonstrate how structure and class relations are reproduced socially across institutions of society. Weber’s argument for bureaucracy. a tenet of Bourdieu and Passeron’s (1977) well-known study of the French educational system. i. The more companies and public agencies are subjected to standards ranging from accounting to quality.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28.g. A third way of conceptualizing public sector reform is to study the dynamics by which practices actually reproduce themselves across institutions. Such binding of resources enables stability and predictability in a way that appeals to management and organization members alike. its history. was its popularity and functional appeal. A conceptualization is provided by. Bureaucracy. Some arrangements will be upset or threatened by the arrival of new principles. All rights reserved. First. for example. with efficiency. Concepts do not merely extend in a linear fashion. in a Weberian sense.sagepub. 1996). as explanatory weight is accorded more to the characteristics of the reform concept than to institutional traits. who tend to see their work as geared Downloaded from http://ras. proponents might argue. and also his fear of bureaucracy. Whereas the mechanisms may be dominant. leadership. they are reproduced inside the organizational boundaries in the form of structures that perform according to the logics of bureaucracy. Explanations of how and why concepts of organization and management spread are found more in the traits of the concepts and factors in the institutional environment. to be able to evolve recursively over time and space. Lane. entails the framing of activity over time and space by the use of formal rules.

The focus is on the possible organizational responses that NPM may generate as it is reproduced across institutional boundaries. and 3 those who are at risk are able to bring to halt or otherwise impair organizational practices and functions so that reform becomes extremely difficult. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. Studies of organizational change show. for example. loose coupling and organic adaptation. This means that.sagepub. A range of different factors may trigger paralysis. it is likely that paralysis also depends on the extent to which 1 it threatens the existing organizing modes and 2 those who risk being negatively affected by the reform are aware of this. paralysis may occur whereas under other circumstances adaptation may happen. Paralysis is not an inherent quality of any organization but it is a contingent condition. Four ideal-type organizational responses are considered: paralysis. is a response rather than a quality in itself. ritualistic decoupling. A study of reform from the point of view of reproduction between institutions is done by studying the interaction between a general concept of organizing with an existing institutional environment with its history. Such a perspective cannot afford to ignore either the principles of the reform or the particularities of individual institutions. that when different reform attempts happen too often. Van Thiel and Leeuw (2002) suggest that paralysis is one of several unintended consequences of the introduction Downloaded from http://ras. that the introduction of benchmarking stands a better chance of succeeding in public administration in AngloSaxon countries. resistance and deflection may be considered to take place to a much lesser extent. evaluation and financial planning. in the face of certain changes. These four categories of organizational response allow for degrees of adaptation to NPM reforms. for example. Paralysis. In the case of NPM. Karkatsoulis (2000) suggests. the result is a tiring of the institution and subsequent paralysis. His point is that incompatibility between old and new values may cause confusion and organizational paralysis. The remaining part of this article will concentrate on a perspective of production of concepts between institutions. For arrangements such as these.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. All rights reserved. where there is a stronger tradition of competition and where the state is more subsidiary in character. Organizational responses may also be related to national public administration cultures. Whereas Karkatsoulis bases his observations on the introduction of reform in the Greek public sector. a similar concern is voiced from study of Dutch public agencies. Other existing arrangements are closer to the principles of NPM. Paralysis refers essentially to an inability to take action or implement new procedures. because the dynamics of adoption takes place as concepts reproduce themselves across institutional boundaries. then. one of which is ossification or paralysis. actors. beliefs and practices.10 International Review of Administrative Sciences 71(1) towards local needs and that these should not be interfered with by administrators. Paralysis Smith (1995) lists eight unintended consequences that may result from the introduction of monitoring systems. such as monitoring. . Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. The first of these factors is mentioned by Karkatsoulis (2000) as the possible cause of organizational paralysis.

Consequently. At the outset.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. they can be seen as ‘rationalized myths’. This example shows the importance of trust. such as personnel recruitment procedures. although they are myths. not so much for their efficiency as for their legitimacy. It is not obvious how Meyer and Rowan draw the distinction between legitimacy and efficiency. As a result. Institutions practice isomorphism with important environmental institutions. Still. Meyer and Rowan’s argument is basically that modern society consists of a number of formal structures that are socially and institutionally legitimized. After two years. Second. point out that solutions tend to work because they are considered ‘right’ by actors at several levels in institutions. It is a particular behavioural situation where attempts to resolve the tensions actually aggravate them rather than ease them. Neither of these two studies. Hovdal (2004) reports on the behavioural aspects of organizational paralysis. they aimed at fostering a culture of communication and trust between managers and professionals. Hovdal’s study also shows that those who work against the reform matter. A curious phenomenon arose whereby attempts to create trust actually produced mistrust. They do. Ritualistic decoupling A large body of institutional theory has. Because such structures come to be taken for granted. In his study.Hernes Four ideal-type organizational responses to NPM 11 of performance measures in public administration. however. paid increasing attention to the ritual character of public institutions. there was a situation of stalemate and paralysis in the administration. Thus. where the failure to Downloaded from http://ras. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. First. over the last three decades. opposed it and enlisted others in their resistance. are less concerned with the internal mechanisms actually producing paralysis. maybe not just from an unwillingness to resolve tensions but also from an inability to resolve tensions. No doubt in this day and age NPM is considered such a legitimized structure. middle managers felt threatened by it. All rights reserved. the management team wanted to reform the administration in two ways. It is inevitably an interpersonal problem where major actors in the institution do not enjoy sufficient mutual trust in order to resolve thorny issues. concern themselves with the internal behavioural mechanisms of paralysis. Meyer and Rowan’s (1977) article can be seen as an important contribution to the understanding of how a formal structure is both a means of instrumental efficiency and a ritual act of adopting socially legitimized prescriptions for formal organizational structures. however. in this void of noncommunication and non-collaboration. thus creating a stand-off situation. further measures became difficult to introduce. they aimed at introducing NPM practices of monitoring and managerial control. in the sense that they reproduce structures that are considered ‘right’. . being mainly concerned with the paradoxes of monitoring as well the fact that monitoring produces unintended consequences. they contribute towards overall efficiency because they tend to stabilize transactions between institutions. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. financial planning and many others.sagepub. paralysis results. In a study of the introduction of NPM into a small local administration in Norway. Van Thiel and Leeuw. there is a gradual trend of isomorphism among institutions in the sense that they increasingly come to exhibit similarities in their structure. Failure to incorporate the proper elements of legitimized structures is considered negligent and irrational.

In Meyer and Rowan’s own words. as the service may just as well be outsourced or eliminated. they sometimes have trouble reconciling efficiency in dealing with their constituents. A decoupling between the ritualized and the operational gives the impression that public institutions lead a sort of double life. something like a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde existence. the extent to which this is made possible is likely to depend on the relative proximity between current arrangements and the elements of NPM that are introduced. public institutions. Their argument is that the introduction of the reform had less to do with substantive efficiency and more to do with conforming to the rationalized myth of the reform. a key question is how it influences the organizational response to NPM over time. on the one hand. 1995) where technologies. In contemporary society. where appearance is everything and substance nothing. Bearing out Meyer and Rowan’s idea of decoupling. However. the chance may increase that attempts are made to make operational and ritualistic structures interact and influence one another over time. The same result may occur if too many measures are introduced in too short a period of time. programmes and human actors interact and thus reshape reality. and fully incorporating legitimized structures. A too wide gap between the two and ritualized decoupling may lead to paralysis. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. Consequently. The way in which they deal with this dilemma is to decouple the one from the other. However. public institutions are no longer guaranteed an eternal existence. ‘Technical activities and demands for efficiency create conflicts and inconsistencies in an institutionalized organization’s efforts to conform to the ceremonial rules of production (p. The adotion act itself is ritualistic as it portrays an intention of being with the times. Hence. for ritualized decoupling. internally as well as externally. 354. it is possible that a pragmatic adaptation to NPM may take place over time. Downloaded from http://ras.sagepub. All rights reserved.12 International Review of Administrative Sciences 71(1) adapt to the NPM logic may be considered more questionable than adapting to it. therefore they increasingly struggle for institutional survival. more often than not as a result of unintended consequences. on the other hand. . Assuming that there is an element of rapprochement between ritual and reality. Although Meyer and Rowan suggest that they are able to uphold the decoupling by introducing ambiguous rules. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. therefore the two systems cannot be kept apart indefinitely. technologies and performance criteria. in particular. increase their chances of long-term survival if they adopt elements of the legitimized structures. Institutionalization consists inevitably of nested processes (Holm. because institutions still have to attend to demands of efficiency. that there was a divergence between what they call the ‘NPM normative mode and the operational mode in the use of accounting technologies and the processes at the school site’. Indeed.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. laying too heavier a burden on available resources. Tooley and Guthrie (2003) found in a study of the introduction of accounting as part of NPM reform in New Zealand. The fact that adaptation in this case is ritualized implies formal commitment. The tension will eventually become untenable. emphasis added). what led Meyer and Rowan to their study was observations in public schools suggesting a gap between the formal structure and what was actually practised by teachers. According to Meyer and Rowan. it is unlikely that institutions can uphold strict decoupling between ritual and practice over long periods of time.

But it is also possible to see loose coupling as an organizational response to attempted reform. looseness of coupling. All rights reserved. without the intervention of external help. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Garbage-can decision-making processes typically arise in what they call ‘organized anarchies’. For organizational units or individual actors to enter competently into conflict-solving processes may thus require boot-strap pulling. which makes them predict organizational outcomes such as in planning processes wrongly. such as in the form of ‘organized anarchies’ function according to ‘quasiresolution’ of conflict (Cohen et al. Loose coupling may come about as an avoidance strategy whereby units pay lip-service to the coordinating mechanisms while largely pursuing their own goals.sagepub. in a study of educational institutions. in many studies. is marked by problematic preferences. Similarly it is possible that organizations avoid change by structurally loosening up. Weick (1976: 4) claims. the loose coupling lies in a weak correlation between performance indicators and performance itself. For example. observed that the interaction between organizational units was more loosely coupled than normally assumed. quality and cost. Looseness of coupling cannot be indefinite but it can probably go as far as units paying enough attention to the coordinating mechanisms to avoid collapse of the system. The loose coupling in decision processes. Cohen et al. as Van Thiel and Leeuw (2002) report. In other words. that agencies end up using indicators of input and output only. managers may confine themselves to reporting on the performance of parts of the organization. in analysing decision-making. However. avoidance is produced to uphold the loose coupling. the indicators are sufficiently coarse in order for the organization to perform at sub-optimal levels but not too coarse to provoke serious questions about its overall efficiency. A number of strategies are available. Weick focuses on loose structural coupling. or on shortterm objectives (myopia) (Van Thiel and Leeuw. overall organizational performance may be sub-optimal yet sufficient to maintain a minimum level of service. (1972) who metaphorized organizational decision-making processes as ‘garbage cans’. This may be done in a number of ways. also point out that many decisions are actually ‘made’ by actually avoiding making them. such as educational institutions.. thereby avoiding indicators on productivity. Whatever the strategy. which is unlikely to solve the conflict. restoring the organization to a higher level of performance may be difficult. Since his study. A major problem. according to Cohen et al. Downloaded from http://ras. 2002). Consequently..Hernes Four ideal-type organizational responses to NPM 13 Loose coupling Karl Weick (1976). This means that the institution is run with indicators that are too coarse to produce information on how individual units actually perform. One is. unclear technology and fluid participation. 1972). been seen more as the rule than the exception. In this case. such as in Cohen et al. aim to uncover the basic traits of institutions that had escaped analytic attention at the time when they were written. The main reason is that changing the organizing logic requires competent conflict resolution. whereas loose coupling may also be assumed between actors and intentions and participation. preferably those parts that are most efficient (sub-optimization). (1972). Works such as those by Weick and Cohen et al. Once looseness of coupling is activated as a response. is that organizational members do not understand the nature of looseness of coupling. loose coupling in organizations has.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. .

Trust makes it probable that expectations of reciprocality are met. However. In other words. the co-existence of two organizing modes was made possible by an essentially organic form of adaptation. To act as efficient brokers between two modes of organizing does not necessarily require that they occupy central formal roles. . organic modes imply informal coordination. If they work like network mechanisms. informal processes work to bridge the mechanistic and organic organizing modes. A key element of operating networks is trust. The scenario was that of a classic opposition between clinicians. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.14 International Review of Administrative Sciences 71(1) Organic adaptation NPM brings with it a series of measures that correspond to a mechanistic logic of organizing. in this case.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. on the one hand. while there may be inconsistency between the two worlds. as Nyland and Pettersen claim. in this case. Whereas there is not necessarily any a priori incompatibility between the two. discretion. clinicians felt a strong moral obligation towards the patients and they did not perceive the use of budget and accounting information as important. and administrators. experience shows that their co-existence is usually problematic. These two modes are ideal-types of tendencies that are more or less present in every organization. Thus. Nyland and Pettersen thus infer an inconsistency in the norms and values between the clinical and managerial worlds of the hospital. Much depends on the extent to which organic and mechanistic modes are able to co-exist inside the same organization. they work only as long as the central actors enjoy sufficient levels of mutual trust. It also matters which actors in the institution enjoy mutual trust. improvisation and change. at least to Burns and Stalker’s (1961) seminal work. The distinction between organic and mechanistic modes of organizing goes back a long way in organization theory. the case offers cues about conditions under which NPM reforms may be made to co-exist fruitfully with existing professional communities. which is sometimes imposed upon an existing system of professional discretion which has elements of organic organizing in the form of professional communities. routines and stability. as found by Kreiner and Schulz (1993) in their study of R&D professionals. Because organic adaptation is cultural and interactive rather than structural and formal. In this case. for mechanistic and organic logics to co-exist in a complementary manner. it seems that. An important point is that informal mechanisms are essentially trust based. Nyland and Pettersen suggest that such coordination takes the form of network-based organizing which they argue can be favourable in managing organizational interdependencies. In cases in which co-existence appears successful. on the other hand. Nyland and Pettersen (2004) studied the introduction of NPM in a large Norwegian hospital. hierarchy. Burns and Stalker’s observation was that whereas mechanistic modes of organizing imply formal rules. they could co-exist and remain mutually complementary in the overall running of the hospital. This point corresponds in part to Burns and Stalker’s emphasis on the informal mechanisms of organic organization. Adaptation to the budgeting and accounting system without disruption of the existing professional community was made possible by frequent and informal communication that served effectively as a buffering function in that it offered meeting points for negotiation and adjustments. organic (informal) mechanisms were activated to bridge the gaps between the two. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. It is likely that Downloaded from http://ras.sagepub.

as well as responses to reforms. It is to be expected that organic adaptation is possible when existing arrangements already contain mechanisms similar to those of NPM and those mechanisms already interact with the professional community. exist in the form of processes. The practice of reforms and responses is a messy reality. reforms. In a paralysed system. One explanation is that these two responses are typical avoidance responses. may be envisaged by reformers as being coherent and logical. however. at least in the first instance. Thus. Although reform processes. In such cases. . All rights reserved. 2007 © 2005 International Institute of Administrative Sciences. it would seem that the existence of mutual trust between key actors is a contributing factor for two seemingly inconsistent modes of organizing to co-exist. In the case of the other two responses (loose coupling and ritual decoupling). In practice. 1987) into NPM logics. especially in the case of ritual decoupling. A different situation presents itself when there is co-existence between professionalism and managerialism prior to the introduction of NPM. although based on different logics. in a paralysed system. they may operate complementarily in the organization of the institution. They have been referred to as ‘ideal-type’ responses because they exist primarily as a way of conceptual differentiation. practice suggests otherwise. Paralysis leaves little hope for adaptation because. it is possible that a pragmatic adaptation to NPM may take place. attempts to create trust may just as well produce the opposite result. lack of interpersonal trust becomes a major barrier to collaboration. the typification of responses described in this article is a simplification of the reponses. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Table 1 Organizational responses and the ability to adapt to NPM Organizational response Adaptation ability Paralysis Inability to adapt Loose coupling Ritual decoupling Modest adaptation over time Organic adaptation Ability to adapt Admittedly. one would expect the adaptation to be more a matter of the translation of existing arrangements (Latour. that performance will remain sub-optimal and that the substantive operations of the institution may not change much. Summing up In Table 1. with processes changing and nesting over time and where causes and effects melt into one Downloaded from http://ras.Hernes Four ideal-type organizational responses to NPM 15 successful organic adaptation depends more on the ability of persons placed centrally in the managerial and professional cultures to bridge inconsistencies. as well as response processes. as has been pointed out by many writers. Over time.com at LAWRENCE INST OF TECH LIBRARY on August 28. of course.sagepub. the introduction of NPM may not worsen the situation but it is likely. a simple schematic presentation is made of the four ideal-type organizational responses discussed earlier. The case briefly described here is one where professional discretion prevailed prior to the reform. informal relations operate to bridge any divergence between NPM and the existing arrangements such that. In the case of organic adaptation.

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