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TRANSLATING “BEST PRACTICE” IN THE ITALIAN PUBLIC SECTOR: BETWEEN HOMOGENEITY AND CHAOS

TRANSLATING “BEST PRACTICE” IN THE ITALIAN PUBLIC SECTOR: BETWEEN HOMOGENEITY AND CHAOS
by

davide nicolini

on 13 March 2012

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Transcript of TRANSLATING “BEST PRACTICE” IN THE ITALIAN PUBLIC SECTOR: BETWEEN HOMOGENEITY AND CHAOS

The main characteristics of the Best Practice method in the public sector (UK, USA, New Zealand)

Compulsory
Defensive
Open to public scrutiny
Instrument of soft bureaucracy (attempt to ‘externalise co-ordination and control of public agencies by driving politically determined measurements to the operating levels’ Meyer and Gupta, 1994) summary Theoretical question

Why organisational fields display a level of systematic heterogeneity and why they are consistently neither totally isomorphic nor totally heterogeneous

Empirical study

The use of “best practice” in the Italian Public sector
Our argument Innovations are not transferred and instead they must be actively translated from one context to other

Collective rationality is an institutional phenomenon Isomorphic pressures are bound to produce difference instead of sameness

Difference is likely to follow recognisable patterns: systematic heterogeneity TRANSLATING “BEST PRACTICE” IN THE ITALIAN PUBLIC SECTOR: BETWEEN HOMOGENEITY AND CHAOS Davide Nicolini, Warwick Business School
Andrea Lippi, University of Florence Information is transmitted unchanged
Success depends on fit between the sender, object, and receivers
Adaptive behaviour adopters as passive
Engine competitive advantage or normative compliance Always many new ideas in circulation
Movement in space and time in the hands of those involved
Translation as a political project
Local adaptation: hybridisation (Djelic), editing (Sahlin Andersson), and bricolage (Campbell) Beyond mindless mimicry: innovations are actively translated The main characteristics of the Best Practice method in the private sector

Voluntary
Competitively driven and tied to the search for improvement and efficiency gains
Confidential exercise
Mainly as a managerial tool The travel of best practice from the private to the public sector (translations of translations…) Exploratory round of interviews (N=20)
Survey (N=63/45)
Sampling: use existing national repertories of BP + chain referral
Four in-depth case studies (12 - 18 semi structured interviews) Signs of fashion
Non compulsory use
Only a handful benchmarking intent
Most aimed at spreading good ideas
Minority used any sort of metric (contrast with Germany and UK) Results Compulsory use not possible in Italy foster legitimation, not depend on it
Central agency = museums: legitimation from size and ‘panoptical effect’
Local authorities = marketplace and local interest topics (environment, energy, traffic)
Coercitive pressure explains beginning. Later translation generated several different ‘tributaries’, which sustained the increase in number of projects
Results: systematic heterogeneity (allomorphism: Lippi 2000) Translation as a way to maximise capital (resources, legitimacy or both) Need to zoom in on actual processes (open the black box of translation)
Translation strategy: intentioned but not explicitly designed strategies and modalities of ordering the world similar to institutional habitus
Result always a patterned variety: not everything goes
Balanced ‘the relative swing between agency and embeddedness’ (Seo and Creed 2002) CONCLUSION Diffusion Translation Method ? museum marketplace Zoom in on legitimating as a translation strategy assumptions contribution vs. Bowerman et al. 2002 "practicoteque" anything goes? TRANSLATING “BEST PRACTICE” IN THE ITALIAN PUBLIC SECTOR: BETWEEN HOMOGENEITY AND CHAOS
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