The ideological use of new public management concepts during organizational change initiatives

Thomas Diefenbach, Rune Todnem By (Editor)

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    There has been a plethora of research into the introduction of New Public Management (NPM) to public sector organisations since the early 1980s. Most of the research found mainly negative impacts and consequences out-balancing the positive results by far (e.g. By 2005, Deem and Brehony, 2005; Kirkpatrick et al. 2005; Deem, 2004; Shattock, 2003; Spencer-Matthews, 2001; Deem, 2001; Hood, 1991; Pollitt, 1990). Some revealed even quite cynical motives behind many strategic change initiatives (e.g. Diefenbach, 2007; Clegg and Walsh, 2004; Clarke and Clegg, 1999). However, NPM is often justified and criticised as a rational concept, its consequences seen primarily in a strategically and organisationally functional sense. Against this backcloth it shall be investi-gated how NPM is being used as an ideology for the justification and implementation of strategic change initia-tives within public sector organisations. More importantly, as with any ideology, NPM is put forward by certain groups of proponents which benefit from it hugely. This chapter, hence, will particularly concentrate on how senior managers of public sector organisations use NPM - largely to their own benefits. In the following the concept of NPM-based change initiatives will be briefly described and its major ideological functions will be identified. The next section then reveals how the introduction of new change initiatives is justi-fied largely by portraying the business environment in certain ways. The following three sections will further analyse the ideological use of NPM by referring to managers' prerogatives, responsibilities and positions, man-agers' individual and group interests, and organisational politics and power. Some conclusions will summarise the findings and insights gained from the analysis. The ideological use of NPM will be investigated from a Critical Management Studies (e.g. Walsh and Weber, 2002; Alvesson and Willmott, 1992) and organisational politics perspective (e.g. Pettigrew, 1992; Burns, 1961) - particularly organisational politics during major organisational change initiatives (e.g. Buchanan et al. 1999; Miller et al. 1996; Beer et al. 1990; Pettigrew, 1973). In doing so, the chapter contributes to Critical Management Studies which reveal that there is something seriously wrong with management as it is usually being portrayed - and that it must be changed (Fournier and Grey, 2000: p. 16).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationManaging Organizational Change in Public Services: International Issues, Challenges and Cases
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages15
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • public management
    • organizational change


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