The purpose of this paper is to analyse the emergence of organizational isomorphism in the industry superannuation sector in Australia. The largest not-for-profit private businesses in the country, the industry funds were created in the 1980s in light of a broader union campaign to extend occupational retirement savings provision to all employees in Australia.
The emergence of organizational isomorphism among the industry funds is assessed from the perspective of institutional theory. The study is based on interviews with key players in the establishment of the industry superannuation sector, original archival research as well as contemporary public commentaries and more recent historical assessments.
The tripartite framework of institutional isomorphism established by DiMaggio and Powell is unable to explain the emergence of the widespread organizational isomorphism found in industry superannuation. Using the more recent notion of institutional logics allows a more satisfactory explanation for the convergence in models of retirement-savings provision in the industry superannuation sector.
Organizational isomorphism cannot be described simply in terms of a tripartite framework of professional normativity, state coercion and market-based mimesis. Alternatively governed organizations such as those created by trade unions may develop in a different manner than social enterprises founded by less powerful social actors.
The interviews and archival research used in this paper were undertaken as part of the Workers’ Capital project at RMIT, funded by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, supported by Industry Super Holdings. Some of the interviews were undertaken by or with Cathy Brigden and Aron Paul, the archival research by Aron Paul and Eleanor Bentham.
Mees, B. (2017), "Organizational mimesis and the emergence of industry superannuation in Australia", Journal of Management History, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 241-258. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-03-2017-0013
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