Year

1995

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Management

Abstract

Research on the implications of law for organization theory in general and interorganizational relations (IOR) in particular is conspicuous by its neglect. The tendency has been to take the legal context as a unidimensional institutional given, ignoring the fact that there are many challenges to legislative efficacy. For this reason alone, theoretical and practical contributions by organizational scholars to important mainstream debates on regulation, deregulation and reregulation have been limited.

The purpose of this study is to offer some redress to the situation by focusing on legally mandated IOR. Specifically, it poses and seeks to answer the following question: what are the implications of legally mandating IOR through public policy, with particular reference to occupational rehabilitation in New South Wales? Using Cranston's (1987) four phase process model of legislative efficacy, modified to account more fully for the compliance behaviour of the target population, a concept of partially mandated IOR is developed. This concept attempts to explain the differences and the interaction between mandated and voluntary IOR contingencies.

Following a case study research design which allows for contextually embedded analysis employing multiple methods, the above model and concept, together with six theoretical propositions, are examined and subsequently validated in their application to legally mandated occupational rehabilitation. The largely historical analysis of mandate emergence draws attention to the need for interorganizational learning and adaptation to a complex, uncertain and variable set of unenforced, self-regulatory circumstances. Content analysis of mandate form shows it to be vague, open-ended and partial in nature and reliant upon the authority of nonmandated organizations (insurers and treating doctors). Network analysis of mandate implementation is based on 81 interviews with 79 informants in 56 organizations which, except for the regulatory agency, are all situated in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Agency-target IOR tended to be consultative, based on broadly unbridled target organization discretion. Compliance behaviour was found to depend on voluntary incentives and the voluntary cooperation of the nonmandated rather than through agency enforcement. Finally, the absence of objective mandate impact measures did not preclude the formation of positive views and experience largely attributed to successful interorganizational activities.

These findings draw attention to the need for IOR theory to acknowledge the partial nature of mandates, and for the public regulation literature to embrace IOR in policy formulation as well as implementation. In addition to identifying the potential utility of interorganizational collaboration in the management of IOR at a local, network and policy level, the study also proposes a number of future research directions based on the concept of partial mandates.

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