An enduring feature of New Public Management in many countries has been the move to create more autonomous, ‘complete’ organisations such as universities, hospitals and social service agencies. Often referred to as ‘corporatisation’, this process is assumed to be leading to the emergence of new organisational forms with dedicated management functions and a greater focus on strategy. However, these assumptions remain largely untested and rely heavily on ‘technical’ accounts of organisational re-structuring, ignoring the potential influence of institutional pressures and internal political dynamics. In this paper, we address this concern focusing on the case of acute care public hospitals that have undergone corporatisation (to become Foundation Trusts) in the English National Health Service. Using administrative data spanning six years (2007–2012), the analysis shows that corporatisation is having mixed effects. While it is associated with a shift in the focus of managers to strategic concerns, it has not led to an expansion of management functions overall. Both tendencies are found to be mediated by institutional pressures, in the form of media scrutiny, and, indirectly, by the involvement of clinical professions in management. These results advance ongoing debates about the emergence of new organisational forms in the public sector, highlighting the limitations of technical accounts of change and raising the possibility that corporatisation is leading to organisations that are both more managed and under-managered at the same time.
- contingency theory
- institutional theory