My research has a strong empirical focus on the practice-level dynamics of organisational change in complex and research-intensive settings, especially in healthcare. I specialise in ethnographic and longitudinal, comparative case studies to analyse relations between informal and formal aspects of organisational life. I am especially interested in the 'backstage' dynamics of intersubjective relations, emotions and politics and their potential to influence and mobilise ideas, material practices, and organisational change.
In my original ethnographic research at Imperial College London, I examined the lifecycle of a national healthcare policy initiative from inception to its successful implementation and subsequent collapse after four years. The initiative's increasing formal risk management systems had unintended consequences for patients, professionals and managers, which undermined organisational functioning. As these important (if seemingly 'invisible') local issues escalated, they disrupted wider management systems, leading to the eventual collapse of this flagship policy initiative. This research was published in two of the leading business school journals (listed in the Financial Times ‘Top 50’ list). Related publications include:
Fischer. M. D. and Ferlie, E. (2013). Resisting hybridisation between modes of clinical risk management: Contradiction, contest, and the production of intractable conflict. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 38(1): 30-49.
Fischer, M. D. (2012) Organizational turbulence, trouble and trauma: Theorising the collapse of a mental health setting. Organization Studies, 33(9): 1153-1173.
Fischer, M.D. & McGivern, G. (2016) Affective overflows in clinical riskwork. In Power, M. (ed) Riskwork: Essays on the organizational life of risk management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
In my subsequent research with colleagues at King's College London, Warwick Business School, and Melbourne Medical School, I conducted a series of high profile case studies into the effects of professional regulation in the cases of doctors, allied health professionals, and medical students. These studies reveal how embedded practices of self-regulation tend to be undermined by professionals' reactions to regulatory transparency, performance metrics, and potential sanctions following clinical errors. This research highlights the role of supportive 'formative spaces' that support more effective forms of regulation in practice. Related publications include:
McGivern, G. & Fischer M. D. (2012) Reactivity and reactions to regulatory transparency in medicine, psychotherapy and counselling. Social Science and Medicine, 74(3): 289-296.
In my related second research theme, I developed this original investigation to examine how similar microsociological dynamics operate at senior leadership levels. My longitudinal research on leadership development provides an in-depth analysis of how executives interpret and 're-assemble' ideas, techniques and materials to selectively deploy these in their leadership practices. Through a stream of longitudinal case studies situated in a range of research-intensive settings, my research has analysed how such leadership practices can operate to powerfully assemble and mobilise organisational change. This research has been published in two top tier management journals and will appear in a forthcoming research monograph published by Oxford University Press.
Related publications include:
Fischer, M. D. et al. (2016). Knowledge leadership: Mobilising management research by becoming the knowledge object. Human Relations, 69(7): 1563-1585.
Ferlie, E. et al. (2016). The political economy of management knowledge: Management texts in English health care organizations. Public Administration, 94(1): 185-203.
McGivern, G. et al. (2016) ‘Epistemic fit’ and the mobilization of management knowledge in healthcare. In Swan, J. Nicolini, D. & Newell, S. (eds) Mobilizing knowledge in healthcare: Challenges for management and organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
I have a track record of leading major competitive research grants. This includes awards of $865,000 (AUD equivalent) as principal or co-investigator and $1.15 million (AUD equivalent) as associate investigator, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, and other major government and higher education institutes.
In 2012, I was awarded a prestigious three-year Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford to conduct an innovative ethnographic study of global leadership development, centred on Oxford's flagship leadership programmes: Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme and High Performance Leadership.
My recent competitive grants include:
The impact of leadership and leadership development in higher education: A review of the literature and evidence. Co-investigator, with S Dopson, E Ferlie, J Ledger, and G McGivern. Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, UK. Value: £20,000
Exploring a policy innovation for knowledge translation: The formation of Australia’s Advanced Health Research & Translation Centres. Principal Investigator, with M. Bismark, H. Dickinson, B. Harley, S. Trenholm. Funded by Melbourne School of Government, The University of Melbourne. 2015-2016, Value: A$24,920
Exploring and explaining the dynamics of osteopathic regulation, professionalism, and compliance with standards in practice. Co-investigator, with G. McGivern and J. Waring. Funded by the General Osteopathic Council, 2013-2014. Value: £80,000
Making it at the top: How elite business schools develop executive leadership. Principal Investigator, with T. Morris and S. Dopson. University of Oxford Saïd Business School, and Saïd Business School Foundation, 2012-2015. Value: 3 year senior fellowship.
Using management knowledge to manage organisational change: A local evaluation of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre. Principal Investigator, with E. Ferlie, N. Fulop, C. French & C. Wolfe. King's College London, Division of Health & Social Care Research, 2009-2012. Value: £30,000
Facilitating knowledge exchange between health care sectors, organisations and professions: Studying boundary spanning processes and their impact on healthcare quality. Co-investigator, with G. Roberts, I. Norman, P. Thomas & L. Nasir. National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). 2010-2012, Value: £252,000
Increasing the motivation and ability of health care managers to access & use management research. Associate Investigator, with S. Dopson, E. Ferlie, L. Fitzgerald, G. McGivern, J. McCulloch, C. Bennett & J. Ledger. Funded by the NIHR Service Delivery & Organisation Programme, 2009-2012. Value: £499,300
The visible & invisible performance effects of transparency in professional regulation. Associate Investigator, with G. McGivern, E. Ferlie & M. Exworthy. Economic & Social Research Council, Public Services Programme, 2008-2009. Value: £65,000