Managing institutional complexity in public sector reform: Hybridization in front-line service organizations

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Public Administration;93(2)



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In this article, we explore how public front-line service organizations respond to contradictory demands for institutional reform and the types of hybridization this entails. Our research context is a major administrative welfare reform in Norway characterized by a dominant New Public Man- agement (NPM) logic of uniform user service and central administrative control, and a subordinate post-NPM logic of holistic user service and local organizational autonomy. We elucidate four types of responses by the front-line organizations as they have incorporated these contradictory demands: ‘non-hybridity’ (ignoring post-NPM demands), ‘ad hoc hybridity’ (indecisive adherence to both demands), ‘negative hybridity’ (separation of the demands), and ‘positive hybridity’ (integration of both demands). On the basis of these findings, we argue that hybridization and agency are possible in fields of public reform characterized by a highly institutionalized NPM logic and explore the key organizational characteristics that facilitate hybridization in such fields.



This is the accepted version of the following article: FOSSESTØL, K., Breit, E., Andreassen, T. A., & Klemsdal, L. (2015). MANAGING INSTITUTIONAL COMPLEXITY IN PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM: HYBRIDIZATION IN FRONT‐LINE SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS. Public Administration, 93(2), 290-306., which has been published in final form at

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