"We are learning to accommodate mess": Four propositions about management change in local governance

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The article argues that, despite the coherence implied by many analyses, there is no one "new management" nor one process of management change within local governance. "New management" is made up of different, and potentially contradictory, streams of ideas and practices. These elements are combined by different organisations into relatively stable and distinct "management recipes". While external triggers to management change are important, the susceptibility of individual authorities to change, and the direction of that change, is related to internal power relations and to local sensibilities and circumstances. Management change is a non-linear process, involving continuities between old and new approaches, movements forward and backward, and change at different levels. Change is not produced simply through introducing new language and structures; it involves a reworking of what is considered "appropriate" behaviour. The article shows how new management approaches are restructuring constraints and opportunities for the exercise of local democracy and citizenship, and argues for political innovation to accompany management change in local governance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-94
Number of pages15
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997