The Relevance of Culture for NPM

Authored by: Koen Verhoest

The Ashgate Research Companion to New Public Management

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754678069
eBook ISBN: 9781315613321
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042372


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The extent to which governments are receptive to internationally propagated NPM doctrines, and the extent to which these ideas are actually translated into decisions and actions, is influenced and moulded by the ‘implementation habitats’ in which reforms are initiated and implemented. One crucial variable of these implementation habitats consists of the cultural values held at the societal level and within the politico-administrative system (Christensen and Lægreid 2001a, Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004). As Bouckaert (2007) states, NPM reforms are not culture-neutral. Studies of OECD countries revealed considerable differences in the way they implemented similar public management reform ideas, which can be explained partly by their different societal cultures and administrative traditions (for example Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004). Moreover, even within countries, similar reform efforts, like the government-wide introduction of specific management tools, are adopted to different extents by public sector organizations (see for example Christensen et al. 2007) because of different organizational cultures. Once institutionalized, the organizational culture acts as a ‘filter’ and influences in a positive or negative way the receptiveness of organizations to managerial reform ideas and initiatives. Bouckaert (2007: 32) states ‘Cultural homogeneity is the strength of NPM but also its weakness.’

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