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Title: Changing management paradigms and the Benefits Agency
Author: O'Brien, Martin
Awarding Body: University of Central England in Birmingham
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 2001
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This study concerns the Benefits Agency, the largest of the Next Steps executive agencies formed as a result of the Ibbs Report (Efficiency Unit, 1988), and assesses the extent of change in its management culture since the organisation was formed. The demise of the traditional Administrative Paradigm, the imposition and absorption of generic management techniques and, more recently, new demands for public service managers to work in partnership with external organisations form the background to the research. A variety of qualitative research methods, supported by quantitative data, were employed to examine the impact of changing the dominant public service management paradigm. Management ethics formed another focus for the study. A higher standard of morality is often assumed for public service managers and this was tested to gauge the impact and lasting influence of the ideology and generic techniques referred to in this study as the New Management Paradigm. The study reveals that although managers were convinced that the Agency's management culture was ethically sound, its underpinning framework of values proved difficult to identify and the application of the appropriate standards was uncertain. In addition the guidance provided to managers was not considered relevant to their role. Academic literature suggests that the demise of the Traditional Administrative Paradigm was swift and that its replacement by the New Management Paradigm has been sure and permanent. This research rejects this view and suggests instead that the acceptance of a new form of public management has been variable across the organisation. Furthermore the task of managers has been complicated by the creation of a variety of irreconcilable tensions and ambiguities directly related to this paradigmatic shift. Managers have also found that adapting to the ideological and technical demands of the New Management Paradigm has not enabled them to achieve a steady state. The burgeoning partnership agenda for the delivery of public services with other public, private and voluntary sector organisations requires new management techniques and political skills. This research argues therefore that that while the New Management Paradigm has been highly influential it too seems certain to evolve further, not least under the influence of a new Partnership Paradigm of public service management, with implications beyond the particular context of Benefits Administration.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available