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THE IVORY CAGE, ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP, CHANGE MANAGEMENT AND ISOMORPHISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION

L. Solkin

City University London (UNITED KINGDOM)
The term iron cage originates in the work of Max Weber and was used to describe the phenomenon of organisational convergence. DiMaggio and Powell (1983) identified three types of isomorphism which account for this movement towards homogeneity – coercive, mimetic and normative. This paper seeks to explore the three forces underlying homogeneity in the context of a single organization undergoing a process of change. The paper investigates the role of external quality control mechanisms, alongside the significance of league tables (as both external and internal indicators of quality) as influences on strategy. It explores the role of staff recruitment in attracting and creating a homogeneous workforce and examines internal and external communications as both mimetic and normative activities. The paper also investigates the influence of public service management as a set of managerial practices which serve to institutionalise the processes of homogenization. The case study methods is employed as mechanism to explore these various themes qualitatively and the resultant paper is submitted as an exemplar of organisational change within the higher education sector. The term ivory cage is thus created to refer to the specific example of organisational isomorphism within higher education.