Developing Insights on Strategic Management

As we complete COGOV’s second year, this blog is an update showing how the many aspects of this programme of research link theory and practice to provide insights on the contribution of strategic management to co-production and co-creation.

Figure: How CoGov translates strategic management theory into practical strategic management solutions and informs strategic management theory

The Context: Strategic Renewal in Public Sector Agencies

In examining whether public service organisations are necessarily experiencing a form of renewal, our approach recognises ‘renewal’ as a broad and deep form of change. Further, this allows the COGOV project specifically to interpret and consider renewal as enhancing the capacities of public agencies:

  • to create public value (here renewal is seen as ‘performance improvement’); and
  • to strengthen democracy (here renewal is seen as ‘deliberative capacity’).

Our conceptual starting point is to identify how the process of strategic renewal impacts upon the three key ‘narratives’ underpinning our understanding of the public sector:

  1. Old Public Administration‘, which depicted the public sector as a bureaucratic authority;
  2. New Public Management‘, which aimed to recast the public sector as a service provider (based on private sector disciplines); and
  3. New Public Governance‘ which aims to transform public service agencies into arenas for co-governance, co-production, and co-creation.

COGOV’s focus is on both elements of the term ‘strategic management’:

  • strategic, specifically on change across the organisation, rather than an isolated micro practice; and
  • management, concerned with complexity arising out of ambiguous and non-routine situations and with organisation-wide rather than operation-specific or day-to-day implications.

Newer, more downward-facing models of management mean that public sector organisations:

  • learn from the environment;
  • include private stakeholders and citizens; and
  • use all possible resources to solve problems.

Strategy in management, on the other hand, allows organisations to:

  • mobilise external capabilities and resources; and
  • anticipate and respond effectively to major challenges.

Among the key research questions for COGOV are:

  • To what extent are public services organisations across the EU making a strategic shift towards more participative and downward-facing modes of working?
  • Which models of strategic management are in use and do they support such shifts towards greater participation?
  • What is the evidence of new modes of strategic management associated with co-production/co-creation models and ideas?
  • How can strategic management best enable downward-facing public service agencies to exploit the drivers – and overcome the barriers – to the co-production or co-creation of innovative public value outcomes at both organisational and project levels?

Conceptualising Strategic Management under New Public Governance

COGOV seeks to make the connection between the renewal of public service agencies, emerging theories of New Public Governance and practical approaches to strategic management. To capture the main ideas underpinning how the process of renewal has been interpreted within New Public Governance, four key concepts are discussed in detail in the Literature Review:

  • Public Value
  • Network Governance
  • Co-Production and Co-Creation
  • Collaborative Public Leadership

Building on these conceptual underpinnings, COGOV also looks to integrate the key concepts into an operational framework that identifies eight Schools of Strategic Management, including, for example, the Strategic Design and Planning School, the Cultural School, the Resource-Based View and the Corporate Governance School.

Using a case study approach, COGOV then goes on to ask:

  • Does the organisation’s decision-making approximate to a school of strategic management? If so, how strongly?
  • Is there a mixed or hybrid pattern with two or more models in use at the same time?
  • Does the organisation consciously not use formal strategic management models and principles, preferring instead a local (and pragmatic) response to an issue?

Applying Models: COGOV and the Practice of Strategic Management 

We look at an interpretive analysis of how managers have developed their contemporary responses to organisational development and service delivery within a narrative shaped by current schools of thought on strategic management. COGOV addresses how managers conceptualise the process of strategic management within New Public Governance.

Other aspects of COGOV’s work also address strategic management more practically, in terms of its application in co-production and co-creation. There are three dimensions to this:

  • strategic management as a means towards an objective. For example, the inclusion of co-creation in strategic documents, and the strategic intent (drivers) for promoting co-creation.
  • how organisations implement co-creation. This includes any strategic effort to facilitate the implementation of co-creation, such as the creation of physical or digital platforms or training of administrators and frontline staff to implement co-creation.
  • strategic management as a process. For example, to what extent are strategic measures implemented under previous reforms barriers to the implementation of co-creation?

Dr Jill Dixon, Dr Andreja Pegan and Prof Keith Shaw are COGOV team members at Northumbria University at Newcastle (COGOV coordinator).

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