Explicit reforms, implicit theories and public service improvement

George Boyne, Steve Martin, Richard Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


A framework for the explication of the theoretical basis of public management reforms is developed. The framework is applied to the Best Value regime in UK local government. The implicit assumptions of policy makers are that the Best Value regime will generate service improvements through changes in organizational structures, processes, culture and strategy content. Empirical evidence on the relationship between these variables and organizational performance is critically reviewed, and policy makers' implicit ‘theories in use’ are made explicit in the form of a simple additive model of public service improvement. In practice the actual pattern of change is likely to be mediative, reciprocal and contingent on local organizational circumstances. However, theorizing public management reforms in this way is valuable because it provides a basis for evaluating the logic of programme design, predicting effectiveness and generating testable models of the relationship between public policies, organizational changes and public service improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2004


  • Best value
  • Public management reform
  • Public service improvement


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