Adopting management philosophies: management gurus, public organizations, and the Economies of Worth

Sam van Elk, Susan Trenholm, Robert H. Lee & Ewan FerlieI

Public Management Review, Online first

Abstract. Management gurus are increasingly prominent in public organizations. However, research generally evaluates guru ideas as primarily pragmatic suggestions, neglecting gurus’ value-laden ‘philosophies’. Particularly in pluralistic public organizations, we suggest that this normative content may significantly shape whether, why, and how such ideas are used. To interrogate this, we investigate a guru idea’s adoption by an English hospital using the Economies of Worth framework, which highlights values and pluralism. We find that guru ideas may be adopted because their normative content can help otherwise divided organizations forge compromises. However, these compromises bring normative constraints and promote risk-aversion in turbulent times.

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