Enterprising health

Rosemary Exton (UKWON Ltd and Workplace Innovation Ltd, Nottingham, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 7 September 2010



This paper seeks to investigate conditions under which entrepreneurs emerge as agents of effective and sustainable change in UK National Health Service Trusts.


The research synthesises literature on changing regulatory structures (“post‐bureaucracy”) and entrepreneurial behaviour to understand how individual identity construction is informed both by context and by individual attributes. Thematic analysis of interview data involving managers from 11 NHS Trusts, including detailed analysis of six transcripts, focuses on regulatory processes, the emergence of entrepreneurial behaviour and outcome variations in workplace innovation and improvement.


This study identifies co‐existing modes of regulation, which interact with individual behaviour, generating strategies differentiated as entrepreneurial or conformist. Four ideal types are identified: organisational entrepreneurship, resisted or dissonant entrepreneurship, conformity, and symbolic entrepreneurship. Analysis reinforces those literature findings, which suggest that the interaction of regulatory structures and the identity work of individuals influence the emergence of entrepreneurial behaviour and the effectiveness of change.

Practical implications

The ability to achieve effective and sustainable outcomes varies considerably even between NHS Trusts faced with comparable challenges in implementing nationally prescribed targets. This variance is explained in terms of the organisation's ability to generate the structures, processes, individual competence and motivation which enable employees at all levels to act entrepreneurially with the ability and legitimacy to achieve strategic goals by working creatively in the spaces between formal organisational structures.


The study identifies specific conditions, which stimulate the emergence of entrepreneurs as agents of effective and sustainable change in the NHS, identifying factors that policymakers should consider when implementing change.



Exton, R. (2010), "Enterprising health", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 459-479. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777261011070493

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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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