The 'Iron Cage' strengthened? Discretion and digital discipline

F. Jorna, F.P. Wagenaar

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Research on changes in public administration associated with the adoption and use of information and communication technologies ('informatization'), almost univocally supports the conclusion that shop floor discretion disappears under their influence. We, however, are ill at ease with this direction in thought about discretion. Our unease is based on the scholarly work about practices, organizational learning and responsiveness. In this article, we test the thesis on the relation between informatization and operational discretion in an empirical research of operational discretion and informatization in two Dutch public agencies, both large and both automated. Our findings show that informatization does not destroy operational discretion, but rather obscures discretion. Based on the work of Argyris, we show that the phenomenon at work is 'participatory boundary practices', the direct personal ties that keep an organization together. ICTs destroy such links and thereby affect organizational learning. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-214
Number of pages26
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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