Formal Planning and the Reshaping of Public Sector Professional Work

36 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014

See all articles by Maria Lusiani

Maria Lusiani

University of Bologna - Department of Management

Date Written: December 2013


This paper deals with the 'managerialization' of public sector professional work. Specifically, it will focus on the role of formal planning practices (as expressed in strategic planning, project management and budgeting practices) in changing public sector professional work. Planning and accounting are at the heart of public sector reforms, responding to a logic of having public service professionals transparent on what they do, on how they pursue their goals, and accountable on the use of resources and on results. Thus planning and accounting practices have been transferred from private sector management models to public, professional organizations. Yet public sector professional organizations can be conceived as a pluralistic setting characterized by diffuse power, fragmented objectives and knowledge based and are deeply embedded in public administration regulatory logics: how can management models deriving from private, hierarchical firms be applied to the specificities and complexities of public, pluralistic settings? What is the specific meaning of formal planning practices in such complex contexts? Based on a qualitative, single case study design, this paper will show how the planning system (in its manifestation of strategic planning, project management and budgeting) applied in a public hospital apparently 'fails' when its deliberate role of serving as a tool for decisions is considered. Yet it is widely in use and widely accepted by professionals as well. Conclusions on the value of formal planning when other emergent roles are taken into account will be discussed.

Keywords: Planning, public sector, professionals, managerialism

JEL Classification: M10

Suggested Citation

Lusiani, Maria, Formal Planning and the Reshaping of Public Sector Professional Work (December 2013). Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia Working Paper No. 33/2013. Available at SSRN: or

Maria Lusiani (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Management ( email )

Via Capo di Lucca 34
Bologna, 40126

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