It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing: The Initiator’s Attraction to New Management Ideas
Paper in proceedings, 2007
A number of things can be identified in the literature that explain why organizations adopt management ideas. Some may have organizational reasons, e.g. performing in a better way (Rogers, 1995), institutional pressures (Meyer and Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell, 1983) or the necessity of being viewed as a modern organization (Abrahamson, 1996). Other explanations may derive from individual reasons, e.g. status or a means toward career enhancement (Huczynski, 1993)
The objective of this paper is to explore influential factors in the process during which a new management idea (process management) is adopted and molded according to the immediate context. Attention is directed to what might be considered contextual and motivational dimensions in the very first phase of the adoption process: what motivated the adoption decision; why the initiators were attracted to the idea; and what made the idea ‘fly’ in that immediate context.
The present study addresses the issues described above by examining the initial adoption of process management at Region Västra Götaland (VGR, a regional administrative body), Sweden. VGR manages the region’s healthcare system: 17 hospitals, 134 health care centers and 170 public dental care clinics. Their adoption of process management started in 1999, a period of widespread diffusion of management ideas in the public sector in Sweden. The empirical theme can thus be seen as an illustration of the characteristic New Public Management (NPM) of the period. Interviews were conducted with the persons associated with the initial adoption of process management. Text analyses were also made of extensive archive data, covering a period of three years.
The study contextualizes the initial phases in an adoption process. The findings highlight the influence of positive and negative experiences of previous reform initiatives and these experiences are seen as breeding grounds in which attraction may arise. We argue that the perceived attractiveness of the new idea is partly a reflection of previous experiences. The new management parlance associated with NPM in general and process management in particular is harmonious with the initiator’s perception of the organizational needs. Consequently, there are no major inhibitors regarding the private sector as the natural and preferred reference. These aspects are also seen as essential in terms of explaining why attraction to the notion of process management may arise in the particular context.