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The Failure of Theory to Predict the Way Public Sector Organisation Responds to its Organisational Environment and the Need for a Mosaic-View of Organisational Theory


  • Bryane Michael


  • Maja Popov


What does theory predict about the way government size and structure adapts to changes in government’s organisational environment (particularly to uncertainty and complexity)? In this paper, we review the theory and evidence from the literature about the way government size adjusts to such changes -- particularly to changes in macroeconomic fundamentals like gross national product (GDP). We find that the traditional theories from the organisational theory literature—like the contingency-based view, resource-based view and the rational choice view -- fail to provide global explanations for much of the variation we see in the world around us. Instead, theorists need to adopt a “mosaic view” of organisational theory -- accepting that different theories may explain the way public sector size and structure responds to the uncertainty and variability in its (macroeconomic) organisational environment. We also provide several empirical hypotheses to test such a mosaic-view. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Suggested Citation

  • Bryane Michael & Maja Popov, 2016. "The Failure of Theory to Predict the Way Public Sector Organisation Responds to its Organisational Environment and the Need for a Mosaic-View of Organisational Theory," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 55-75, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:porgrv:v:16:y:2016:i:1:p:55-75
    DOI: 10.1007/s11115-014-0296-5

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    Cited by:

    1. Bryane Michael & Maja Popov, 2016. "How Does Government Size and Structure Respond Empirically to Changes in its Organisational Environment?," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 269-283, June.

    More about this item


    Contingency theory; Public sector organisational theory; Resource-based view; Size of government; Government structure; “Mosaic view”; JELCodes; F4; D7; E6; H1; H4;

    JEL classification:

    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods


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