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Less is More? Publicness, Management Strategy, and Organizational Performance in Mental Health Treatment Facilities

Author: CULLEN C. MERRITT, KATHLEEN CORDELL and MORGAN D. FARNWORTH
Published in PAQ, Vol. 42 No. 1

In this study, the authors seek to identify mechanisms of publicness present within mental health treatment facilities and, subsequently, explore the constraints these mechanisms impose on facilities’ capacities to achieve public outcomes. Through grounded insights from senior managers in this field, political authority, namely through governmental funding and regulation, is identified by 43 of 46 respondents as being an influence on publicness. Authors then uncover the conditions during which publicness, in the form of political authority, constrains organizational achievement of public outcomes. In leveraging managerial perspectives, two distinct constraints emerged: publicness often inhibits organizational efficiency and produces mission drift within these facilities. Findings suggest that managers, under certain conditions (and where legally feasible), may provide greater effectiveness in fulfilling organizational goals and objectives and in achieving public outcomes by maintaining or decreasing an organization’s publicness. Fundamental to effectively managing publicness is understanding the mechanisms germane to both public outcome attainment and failure—the latter of which is explored here.

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