Health Care Analysis

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 417–436 | Cite as

NHS Trust Chief Executives as Heroes?

  • Mark Learmonth


This paper presents a reading of the transcripts of interviews withNHS Trust Chief Executives. Using a poststructuralist understanding ofthe interviews, it privileges a reading that (ironically) representsthese Chief Executives as heroes. Following the classic hero story line,they leave the civilized order of home and journey into a threateningwilderness where they encounter dangerous and magical things butovercome them all because of their masculine characteristics such asrationality, strength and resourcefulness. One way in which thesestories can be understood to have significance is that they(misleadingly but powerfully) portray management as obvious andnecessary by evocatively drawing on a myth of ancient origin. The piececoncludes with some reflections on the ontological implications of theanalysis and reflexive comments on the production of truth as aproblem.

hero management myth NHS poststructuralism qualitative research 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alvesson, M. and Karreman, D. (2000) Taking the Linguistic Turn in Organizational Research: Challenges, Responses, Consequences.' Journal of Applied Behavioural Science 36(2), 136-158.Google Scholar
  2. Alvesson, M. and Skoldberg, K. (2000) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Barthes, R. (1973) Mythologies. London: Paladin Grafton Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bellavita, C. (1991) The Public Administrator as Hero, Administration and Society 23(2), 155-185.Google Scholar
  5. Bowles, M. (1997) The Myth of Management: Directions and Failure in Contemporary Organizations', Human Relations 50(7), 779-803.Google Scholar
  6. Brower, R.A. (1971) Hero & Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  7. Calas, M.B. and Smircich, L. (1992) Re-writing Gender into Organizational Theorizing: Directions from Feminist Perspectives. In: M. Reed and M. Hughes (Eds.), Rethinking Organization: New Directions in Organization Theory and Analysis (pp. 227-253). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  9. Checkland, P. (1997) Rhetoric and Reality in Contracting: Research in and on the National Health Service. In R. Flynn and G. Willims (Eds.), Contracting for Health: Quasi-Markets and the National Health Service (pp. 115-134). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chia, R. (1996) Metaphors and Metaphorization in Organizational Analysis: Thinking beyond the Thinkable. In: D. Grant and C. Oswick (Eds.), Metaphor and Organizations (pp. 127-145). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Chia, R. (1997) Essai: Thirty Years on: From Organization Structures to the Organization of Thought. Organization Studies 18(4), 579-604.Google Scholar
  12. Chia, R. (1998) Introduction. In: R. Chia (Ed.), In the Realm of Organization: Essays for Robert Cooper (pp. 1-11). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Cooper, R. (1990) Organization/Disorganization. In: J. Hassard and D. Pym (Eds.), The Theory and Philosophy of Organizations: Critical Issues and New Perspectives (pp. 167-197). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Davies, H. and Mannion, R. (2000) Clinical Governance: Striking the Balance between Checking and Trust. In: P. Smith (Ed.), Reforming Markets in Health Care: An Economic Perspective (pp. 246-267). Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Derrida, J. (1981) Dissemination. London: The Athlone Press.Google Scholar
  16. Ferlie, E., Ashburner, L., Fitzgerald, L. and Pettigrew, A.M. (1996) The New Public Management in Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fineman, S. and Gabriel, Y. (1996) Experiencing Organizations. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Flax, J. (1990) Thinking Fragments: Psychoanalysis, Feminism & Postmodernism in the Contemporary West. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Flynn, R and Williams, G. (1997) ‘Contracting for Health. In: R. Flynn and G. Willims (Eds.), Contracting for Health: Quasi-Markets and the National Health Service (pp. 1-13). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Flynn, R., Williams, G. and Pickard, S. (1996) Markets and Networks: Contracting in Community Health Services. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Fournier, V. and Grey, C. (2000) At the Critical Moment: Conditions and Prospects for Critical Management Studies. Human Relations 53(1), 7-32.Google Scholar
  22. Gabe, J., Kelleher, D. and Williams, G. (Eds.) (1994) Challenging Medicine. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Gabriel, Y. (1999) Organizations in Depth: The Psychoanalysis of Organizations. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Gergen, K. (1992) Organization Theory in the Postmodern Era. In: M. Reed and M. Hughes (Eds.), Rethinking Organization: New Directions in Organization Theory and Analysis (pp. 207-226). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Ham, C. (1995) The Grey Suits Deserve Better Treatment. The Independent (10 June), 15.Google Scholar
  26. Harding, N. and Learmonth, M. (2000) Thinking Critically: The Case of Health Policy Research. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 12(3), 335-341.Google Scholar
  27. Harrison, S., Hunter, D., Marnoch, G. and Pollitt, C (1992) Just Managing: Power and culture in the NHS. Basingstoke: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  28. Hearn, J. (1993) Emotive Subjects: Organizational Men, Organizational Masculinities and the (De)construction of ‘Emotions'. In: S. Fineman (Ed.), Emotion in Organizations (pp. 142-166). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Homer (1980) The Odyssey. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hourihan, M. (1997) Deconstructing the Hero: Literary Theory and Children's Literature. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Hughes, D.; McHale, J.V. and Griffiths, L. (1997) Settling Contract Disputes in the National Health Service: Formal and Informal Pathways. In: R. Flynn and G. Willims (Eds.), Contracting for Health: Quasi-Markets and the National Health Service (pp. 1-13). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hunter, D.J. (1996) The Changing Roles of Health Care Personnel in Health and Health Care Management. Social Science and Medicine 43(5), 799-808.Google Scholar
  33. Hunter, D.J. (1994) From Tribalism to Corporatism: The Managerial Challenge to Medical Dominance. In: J. Gabe, D. Kelleher and G. Williams (Eds.), Challenging Medicine (pp. 1-22). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Jeffcut, P. (1994) From Interpretation to Representation in Organizational Analysis: Postmodernism, Ethnography and Organizational Symbolism. Organization Studies 15(2), 241-274.Google Scholar
  35. Kerfoot, D. and Knights, D. (1993) Management, Masculinity and Manipulation: From Paternalism to Corporate Strategy in Financial Services in Britain. Journal of Management Studies 30(4), 659-677.Google Scholar
  36. Kilduff, M. and Mehra, A. (1997) Postmodernism and Organizational Research. Academy of Management Review 22(2), 453-481.Google Scholar
  37. Kitchner, M. (2000) The Bureaucratization of Professional Roles: The Case of Clinical Directors in UK Hospitals. Organization 7(1), 129-154.Google Scholar
  38. Learmonth, M. (1997) Managerialism and Public Attitudes towards NHS Managers. Journal of Management in Medicine 11(4), 214-221.Google Scholar
  39. McCartney, S., Brown, R.B. andBell, L. (1993) Professionals in Health Care: Perceptions of Managers. Journal of Management in Medicine 7(5), 232-240.Google Scholar
  40. Malamud, R. (1980) The Amazon Problem. In: J. Hillman (Ed.), Facing the Gods (pp. 47-66). Dallas: Spring Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Mark, A. andBrennan, R. (1995) ‘Demarketing: Managing Demand in the UK National Health Service. Public Money and Management (July-September), 19-21.Google Scholar
  42. O'Connor, E.S. (1995) Paradoxes of Participation: Textual Analysis and Organizational Change. Organization Studies 16(5), 769-803.Google Scholar
  43. Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Rhodes, C. (2000) Reading and Writing Organizational Lives. Organization 7(1), 7-29.Google Scholar
  45. Schulman, P.R. (1996) Heroes, Organizations and High Reliability. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 4(2), 72-82.Google Scholar
  46. Stewart, R. (1989) Leading in the NHS: A Practical Guide. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  47. Strong, P. andRobinson, J. (1990) The NHS under New Management. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Thompson, P. (1993) Postmodernism-Fatal Distraction. In: J. Hassard andM. Parker (Eds.), Postmodernism and Organizations (pp. 183-203). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Thorne, M.L. (1997) Myth-management in the NHS. Journal of Management in Medicine 11(2), 168-180.Google Scholar
  50. Traynor, M. (1999) Managerialism and Nursing: Beyond Oppression and Profession. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Willmott, H. (1998) Towards a New Ethics? The Contribution of Poststructuralism and Posthumanism. In: M. Parker (Ed.), Ethics and Organization (pp. 76-121). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  52. Wilson, F. (1996) Research Note: Organization Theory: Blind and Deaf to Gender? Organization studies 17(5), 825-842.Google Scholar
  53. Wood, M.,Ferlie, E. andFitzgerald, L. (1998) Achieving Clinical Behaviour Change: A Case of Becoming Indeterminate. Social Science and Medicine 47(11), 1729-1738.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Learmonth
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Health & Social Care ManagementThe University of York, Alcuin College `D' Block, HeslingtonYorkUK

Personalised recommendations