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'Culture Eats Systems for Breakfast': On the Limitations of Management Based Regulation

Prof Neil Gunningham
The Australian National University

Date: 29 April 2008
Time: 1-2:30pm
Venue: CARR Seminar Room, H615

For over a decade, governments and corporations in North America, Western Europe and Australasia have been experimenting with an innovative approach to standard setting variously termed "process-based", "systems-based" or "management based" regulation or (when applied by private corporations to their own operations), "management based strategy". Understandably, since management-based initiatives are of relatively recent origin, there has been relatively little evaluation of how they actually work in practice. And of those evaluations that have taken place, none has focused on two potentially critical aspects of their implementation: (i) the gap between the intentions of firms or regulators to achieve social goals through management-based initiatives, and their implementation at site level; and (ii) the extent to which management-based initiatives successfully engage with organizational culture, especially at site level. These facility-level implementation issues are crucially important because management-based strategies are designed for large rather than small organizations and most large organizations operate at a number of different sites, often in different jurisdictions.

This paper takes one area of public policy where management based strategies has been heavily relied upon, both in terms of government regulation and corporate strategy - mine safety - and examines the reasons for what appears to be substantial and widespread implementation failure. It examines this failure at two levels: in terms of a "disconnect" between Head Office initiatives and site level behaviour, and in terms of the failure of those initiatives to engage successfully with site level culture.

About the speaker
Professor Neil Gunningham is an interdisciplinary social scientist and lawyer who specialises in safety, health and environmental regulation and governance. He currently holds Professorial Research appointments in the Regulatory Institutions Network, Research School of Social Sciences, and in the School of Resources, Environment and Society, at the ANU. His books include Mine Safety: Law, Regulation, Policy (2007), Leaders and Laggards: Next Generation Environment Regulation (with Sinclair) Greenleaf, 2002, Shades of Green: Business, Regulation and Environment (with Kagan and Thornton), Stanford UP, 2003, Smart Regulation: Designing Environmental Policy,(with Grabosky) Oxford UP, UK, 1998. and Regulating Workplace Safety (with Johnstone), Oxford UP, UK, 1999.