Escape from the Iron Cage? Organizational Change and Isomorphic Pressures in the Public Sector

Posted: 31 Dec 2008

See all articles by Rachel Ashworth

Rachel Ashworth

Cardiff University

George Boyne

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School

Rick Delbridge

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School

Date Written: January 2009

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.

Suggested Citation

Ashworth, Rachel and Boyne, George and Delbridge, Rick, Escape from the Iron Cage? Organizational Change and Isomorphic Pressures in the Public Sector (January 2009). Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 19, Issue 1, pp. 165-187, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1318118 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jopart/mum038

George Boyne

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom
+ 44 (0) 29 20 875572 (Phone)
+ 44 (0)29 20874419 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.cf.ac.uk/carbs/hrm/boyne.html

Rick Delbridge

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom
+44 (0)29 2087 6644 (Phone)
+44 (0)29 2087 4419 (Fax)

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