Making work invisible: New public management and operational work in critical infrastructure sectors
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionPublic Administration. 2014, 92 (2), 477-492. 10.1111/padm.12069
Based on a study of reliability consequences of new public management (NPM) reforms in Norwegian critical infrastructure sectors, this article suggests that the discourse of work found in NPM renders essential aspects of operational work invisible – including practices that are known to be of importance for reliability. We identify two such organizationally ‘invisible’ characteristics of operational work: the ever ongoing situational coordination required for keeping a water supply system or an electricity grid running, and the aggregating operational history within which this happens. In the reorganized infrastructure sectors, these crucial aspects of operational work fit poorly in market oriented organizational models and control mechanisms. More generally, our analysis contributes to the understanding of how some types of work fit poorly within the discourse of work found in NPM.