Interesting paper on resistance to collaborative/centralised public procurement (Mason & Meehan: 2016)

I have just read the paper C Mason & J Meehan, ‘Collaborative public procurement: institutional explanations of legitimised resistance’ (2016) 22 Journal of Purchasing & Supply Management, forthcoming [a draft preliminary version of the paper is available on SSRN:]. 

The paper focuses on the very operational and subjective reasons that can lead practitioners involved in collaborative or centralised procurement to resist the roll-out of these innovative procurement strategies. I found their findings regarding financial reporting implications and job security particularly relevant because they bring home a reality bite that we need to incorporate into legal research if we are worried about the effectiveness of the rules we create.

In the rather more technical terms of the abstract:
The paper explores the barriers to regional collaborative public procurement. It reports the results of an empirical study of five public sector authorities in the emergency services sector in the UK. Exploring the barriers to collaborative procurement through the lens of institutional theory we frame the inter- and intra-organizational strategic resistant responses to isomorphic pressures. The study took a multi-stakeholder approach involving 70 individuals spanning budget holders, operational managers, procurement, and finance across 30 spend workstreams. The results show that operational barriers to collaborative procurement persist at national, regional, organizational and individual levels. While these barriers are used overtly as the rational defence, covert strategic responses of institutional logics, protectionism and symbolic tick-boxing legitimize stakeholder resistance to numerous isomorphic forces and further entrench the operational barriers. The findings contribute to an understanding of choice mechanisms in public procurement research by exploring where, and why, tensions and conflicts occur in collaborative public procurement strategies, both within, and between, organizations. The study contributes to, and addresses a central issue in institutional theory: identifying the social processes embedded in rational decision-making processes. By focusing on different internal stakeholder perceptions and their motivations, we add to current thinking on how organizations create internal power and agency structures through institutional logics to legitimize their actions. The results highlight the criticality of understanding underpinning motivation in behaviour in institutional theory and the links between operational and strategic processes. From an applied perspective, the research highlights that failure to provide sufficient evidence while applying pressure at a political level leads to tick-box approaches to collaborative procurement risking long-term damage and sub-optimized performance.
It is definitely well worth a read. 

An interesting reminder on institutional culture and public service commitment: First speech by Clive Maxwell, new OFT's Chief Executive

The new Chief Executive of the Office of Fair Trading, Clive Maxwell, gave his first speech on 10 September 2012 at the RPI Annual Competition and Regulation Conference ( Even if he will only hold this post for about two years due to the already launched and significant reform of the UK's competition enforcement bodies (ie the establishment of the Competition and Markets Authority, which will take on the competition, markets and remaining consumer functions of the OFT plus all of those of the Competition Commission), I think that his speech is an interesting reminder of institutional culture and public service commitment that deserves praise and diffusion.
One of the keys to a strong delivery culture is to invest in people and their skills. Only then can we efficiently deliver high impact, outcomes across our portfolio. This is a critical issue not just for the OFT but for regulators more generally, and one that may get overlooked in the rush to discuss processes and procedures
I care about how we choose what we do, how we achieve change for the better in the real world most efficiently and effectively.
I led an ‘enforcement debate’ at the start of 2012 within the OFT, to identify what we at the OFT do well and less well, and the challenges we face in doing it even better. We also discussed these issues with similar bodies in the UK and abroad. I was especially struck that we need to look outside the competition and consumer community and more generally at the way in which other authorities – such as the FSA, the Serious Fraud Office and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – tackle what are broadly similar challenges in addressing wrongdoing by businesses and individuals.
The conclusions to this work included three points:
• The importance of skills.
• The need for the right attitude –or culture– for successful enforcement work.
• The importance of intelligence.
What does this all show?For me, there are three important points to all of this.
The first is that while it is right that any agency needs to work hard at its processes and procedures, the skills and culture of the people in the organisation is at least as important. I believe that some of the potential for sharing such ideas between authorities remains to be exploited further. It is also the case that tackling this requires putting your money where your mouth is – skills development is an investment and it is important to recognise that this costs money. [...]
The second is that even where we are facing big organisational changes and uncertainty it is important to continue to invest time and effort doing things better. [...]
The third is that in running agencies such as the OFT it’s really important to continue to review how we do things, to experiment where needed, and to learn lessons from our own and others’ experiences. 

I hope that the observations I have made have some relevance to the challenges your organisations are facing. For me, delivery is about people and commitment, as well as processes, and we must not forget that our staff are the major driver of our organisations’ success
I think that this is a reflection of the instutional culture present in most market regulators (broadly understood) in the UK, and an important ingredient in the recipe for a smooth transition to the new institutional framework for competition law enforcement.

It seems to me too that there are many lessons to be learned by other competition authorities immersed in enforcement architecture redesign, such as the Spanish National Competition Commission–which remains in a state of shock since a reform similar to the UK's was hinted at in the last Spring.