Managing the unmeasurable
: performance management of voluntary hospices

  • Cathy Knowles

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis investigates how the performance of UK voluntary organisations is managed. In particular, it considers the role of performance measures in the management of voluntary hospices. The voluntary sector has come under increasing pressure to account for its performance but it faces difficulties in how to measure this effectively. The mission of voluntary hospices is to ensure ‘a good death’; an intangible and complex outcome. This thesis considers how voluntary hospices manage the unmeasurable by advocating that performance management should not be limited to performance measures but incorporate broader notions of management control. By comparing the literature of general theories of management control to that of voluntary sector performance measurement, gaps are identified. Effective management control is considered to have various characteristics, including diverse measures, aligned measurement systems, integrated and comprehensive performance management. However, management control includes broader notions of control as a package (Malmi and Brown, 2008). This thesis argues that this is evident in voluntary sector organisations, but not acknowledged within its performance measurement literature. Adopting middle-range thinking (Laughlin,1995), this research develops a skeletal framework from both these literatures as well as from an analysis of the statutory returns of 148 voluntary hospices in England and Wales. The ‘flesh’ is then put on the skeleton by carrying out an analysis of five case hospices. This thesis makes a contribution to knowledge in several ways. First, it suggests that voluntary sector performance measurement literature should be broadened to include notions of management control as a package. Second, it argues that general management control frameworks need refinement to accommodate voluntary sector characteristics. Third, it proposes a voluntary sector performance management framework, informed by Simons’ (1995) Levers of Control, but substantially reconfigured for use in the voluntary sector, incorporating levers which overlap and informal controls.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSheila M Ellwood (Supervisor) & Stuart M Cooper (Supervisor)

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