le May, A.;
Lost in translation: a multi-level case study of the metamorphosis of
meanings and action in public sector organisational innovation.
This paper explores the early implementation of an organisational innovation in the UK National Health Service (NHS) - Treatment Centres (TCs) - designed to dramatically reduce waiting lists for elective care. The paper draws on case studies of eight TCs (each at varying stages of their development) and aims to explore how meanings about TCs are created and evolve, and how these meanings impact upon the development of the organisational innovation. Research on organisational meanings needs to take greater account of the fact that modern organisations like the NHS are complex multi-level phenomena, comprising layers of interlacing networks. To understand the pace, direction and impact of organisational innovation and change we need to study the interconnections between meanings across different organisational levels. The data presented in this paper show how the apparently simple, relatively unformed, concept of a TC framed by central government, is translated and transmuted by subsequent layers in the health service administration, and by players in local health economies and, ultimately in the TCs themselves, picking up new rationales, meanings, and significance as it goes. The developmental histories of TCs reveal a range of significant re-workings of macro policy with the result that there is considerable diversity and variation between local TC schemes. The picture is of important disconnections between meanings, that in many ways mirror Weick’s (1976) ‘loosely coupled systems’. The emergent meanings and the direction of micro-level development of TCs appear more strongly determined by interactions within the local TC environment, notably between what we identify as groups of ‘idealists’, ‘pragmatists’, ‘opportunists’ and ‘sceptics’ than by the framing (Goffman 1974) provided by macro and meso organisational levels. While this illustrates the limitations of top down and policy-driven attempts at change, and highlights the crucial importance of the front-line local ‘micro-systems’ (Donaldson & Mohr, 2000) in the overall scheme of implementing organisational innovations, the space or headroom provided by frames at the macro and meso levels can enable local change, albeit at variable speed and with uncertain outcomes.
|Title:||Lost in translation: a multi-level case study of the metamorphosis of meanings and action in public sector organisational innovation|
|Open access status:||An open access version is available from UCL Discovery|
|Additional information:||This is an electronic version of an article published in Public Administration, March 2006, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 59-79.|
|UCL classification:||UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care > CHIME|
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