Changing Public Service Organizations: Current Perspectives and Future Prospects

14 Pages Posted: 3 May 2004

See all articles by Ewan Ferlie

Ewan Ferlie

King's College London

Jean Hartley

University of Warwick Business School

Steve Martin

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School


As governments and public service organizations across the globe engage in strategies of institutional and organizational change, it is timely to examine current developments and a future research agenda for public governance and management. The paper commences with reflections on the state of the field, based on an analysis of papers published in the British Journal of Management over the last decade. While there was some variation apparent across the set, the 'typical' article was found to be influenced by the discipline of organizational behaviour, set within the health-care sector, using case-study methods within field-based studies, and investigating shifts in roles and relationships and the management of change. It has also in the past been UK-centric, though the journal editorial policy and our own article call for a stronger international and comparative focus in the future. The second section of the article summarizes the articles and themes contained in this collection of papers on public service organizations. The third section explores a possible research agenda for the future, arguing for the significance of public sector research for the understanding of management more generally, and for examining the interface between private and public organizations (an increasingly common phenomenon). We suggest the need to set public services research in policy and political contexts, and suggest this may reveal organizational processes of wide interest. We call for a wider set of disciplines to engage in public management research, and to engage in moving the agenda from the study of efficiency to effectiveness as defined by a variety of stakeholders. We address the issue of how far public management researchers should become directly engaged with the world of policy and suggest that whether researchers engage in Mode 1 or Mode 2 research, their work would benefit from a stronger theoretical base.

Suggested Citation

Ferlie, Ewan and Hartley, Jean and Martin, Stephen James, Changing Public Service Organizations: Current Perspectives and Future Prospects. British Journal of Management, Vol. 14, No. S1, pp. S1-S14, December 2003. Available at SSRN:

Ewan Ferlie (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

United Kingdom

Jean Hartley

University of Warwick Business School ( email )

Local Government Centre
Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 24 7652 2942 (Phone)
+44 (0) 24 7652 3719 (Fax)

Stephen James Martin

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

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