Innovation has become a cornerstone of many government programmes of public management reform. In this study we provide the first empirical analysis of innovation adoption in a programme of public management reform that involves an external authority decision. Studies of this nature have not formed a central element of innovation-adoption research, which typically focuses upon the voluntary adoption of innovations by public organisations. Over a two-year period seventy-nine services adopting a programme of innovative management in local government were studied. The empirical results indicate that innovation adoption in local authorities is likely to be achieved where there are dispersed populations, where adoption is concentrated upon a limited number of services, and where there is prior experience of facets of the programme of innovative management reform. Explanations of these results are identified and the implications of researching innovation in public organisations are considered.