If professionalism shapes executive behavior significantly, then agencies whose executives belong to a particular profession ought to manage differently from similarly situated executives who do not, and in ways that affect organizational outcomes. Extending theories of normative isomorphism to executive management, this study examines the effects of executives’ professions on their management and their agencies’ implementation of federal environmental regulations. Examining American local government water utilities, I argue that normative isomorphism causes executives who are engineers to manage their agencies differently from non-engineers. Illustrative case studies show how professions shape executive management. Since professional engineers were influential in the development of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), its regulations reflect the dominant norms of the engineering profession. Analysis of data from a survey of utility executives and the Environmental Protection Agency shows that utilities that are headed by professional engineers violate the SDWA significantly less frequently than do utilities led by nonengineers. Results demonstrate normative isomorphism in executive management and highlight the significance of professionalism in policy design and implementation.
Professional engineering in the executive ranks of local government utilities leads to greater compliance with federal drinking water regulations… Professionalism can bolster public policies, at least to the extent that policies align with the predominant norms of
a profession charged with its implementation. But what professionalism helps, it also can hinder.
Teodoro, Manuel P. 2014. “When Professionals Lead: Executive Management, Normative Isomorphism, and Policy Implementation,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 24(4): 983-1004.