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What causes imbalance in complex service networks? Evidence from a public health service

Katrien Verleye (Center for Service Intelligence, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Elina Jaakkola (Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Ian R. Hodgkinson (School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Gyuchan Thomas Jun (Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Gaby Odekerken-Schröder (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Johan Quist (Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 20 March 2017




Service networks are inherently complex as they comprise of many interrelated actors, often driven by divergent interests. This can result in imbalance, which refers to a situation where the interests of at least one actor in a network are not secured. Drawing on the “balanced centricity” perspective, the purpose of this paper is to explore the causes of imbalance in complex service networks.


Adopting a qualitative case-based approach, this paper examines a public health service network that experienced imbalance that was detrimental to the lives of its users: the Mid-Staffordshire National Health Service (NHS) Trust, UK. Drawing on service-dominant logic and stakeholder theory, case evidence provides insight into the origin and drivers of imbalance in complex public service networks.


The origin of imbalance stems from competing institutional logics of various actors (patients/public, employees, managers, regulatory bodies, etc.), but the degree to which these competing institutional logics lead to imbalance is moderated by accountability, communication, engagement, and responsiveness within the service network.

Research limitations/implications

By uncovering causes of imbalance in complex public service networks, this paper pinpoints important research avenues for developing the balanced centricity perspective.

Practical implications

The inherent existence of multiple parallel institutional arrangements makes networks imbalanced, but value creation can be achieved when the appropriate mechanisms are fostered to manage balance between divergent logics.


By examining imbalance as the underlying cause of network dysfunction, this research contributes to understanding of the dynamics in, and performance of, complex public service networks.



The authors thank Thorsten Gruber for organizing the Health and Social Care Service Innovation Networking event at the Loughborough University, which provided the impetus to develop the research idea and write this research paper. Katrien Verleye is indebted to Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO) for Katrien’s position as a Postdoctoral Researcher.


Verleye, K., Jaakkola, E., Hodgkinson, I.R., Jun, G.T., Odekerken-Schröder, G. and Quist, J. (2017), "What causes imbalance in complex service networks? Evidence from a public health service", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 34-56.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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