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Time and space in new public management reform: the case of geriatric care

Hans Rämö (Stockholm University, School of Business, Stockholm, Sweden)
Per Skålén (Karlstad University, The Service Research Center, Karlstad, Sweden)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 August 2006




The implications of new public management (NPM) have been studied from several theoretical perspectives. The present paper sets out to argue that there is a missing dimension to the theoretical debate regarding NPM reform – that of time and space. On the basis of two different notions of time‐space logics, the present paper seeks to develop a framework that contributes to a fuller understanding of NPM reform and organizational change/inertia in general.


The theoretical framework of the paper draws on studies of time and space in organizations, research on public‐sector reform, and neo‐institutional theory. The empirical case study presented here focuses on an attempt to change geriatric care using NPM initiatives.


The paper describes two paradigms of time‐space logics – the paradigm of “speed” (as used in finance and manufacturing) and the paradigm of “closeness” (as used in health care and associated care‐giving practices). The study argues that speed is a feature of almost all NPM programs, but that NPM programs are often directed at practices institutionalized by a time‐space paradigm of closeness. The study utilizes the two time‐space paradigms to understand the effects of NPM in the case reported. The use of time‐space paradigms in studies of public‐sector reform adds to the arsenal of theoretical tools for the analysis of NPM‐reform.

Research limitations/implications

Although the methodology of a case study is an appropriate vehicle for introducing the time‐space paradigm to this area of research, the methodology is not well suited to generalizing the findings to other contexts. Future research could elaborate on the present study by applying quantitative approaches to the subject‐matter.

Practical implications

The study presents an analysis of an NPM‐reform program in geriatric care – a context in which ideas of “speed” clash with the traditional practice of “closeness”. This potential clash has important practical implications for managers.


The paper introduces notions of time and space into research on NPM‐reform. This novel approach to the study of NPM reform might be of value in future research.



Rämö, H. and Skålén, P. (2006), "Time and space in new public management reform: the case of geriatric care", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 513-525.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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