Escape from the iron cage? Organizational change and isomorphic pressures in the public sector

Rachel Ashworth, George Boyne, Rick Delbridge*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    178 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Institutional theory suggests that organizations pursue legitimacy by conforming to isomorphic pressures in their environment. We extend previous research on institutional theory by distinguishing between two definitions of conformity (compliance and convergence) and by taking a comprehensive view of the organizational characteristics that might be subject to isomorphic pressures. This framework is applied to change between 2001 and 2004 in the internal characteristics of 101 public organizations in England. We find substantial evidence of compliance but more limited support for convergence. Furthermore, the impact of isomorphic pressures was stronger on organizational strategies and culture than on structures and processes. Thus, the relevance of institutional theory to change in the public sector depends on the definition of conformity that is used and the organizational characteristics that are examined.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-187
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
    Volume19
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Public Administration
    • Marketing

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