Imperial Future Matters: Centralisation vs decentralisation u00e2u0080u0093 what we can learn from the NHSu00e2u0080u0099 COVID-19 response

The question of whether an activity should be centralised or decentralised is often contentious – in organisations, it is common to see functions such as HR and IT services switch between the two regularly. Put simply, there is an unavoidable tension between the efficiency and reliability of centralisation and the responsiveness and flexibility of decentralisation.

In this webinar, Professor Nelson Phillips and Professor Carol Propper will discuss how to decide on the degree of centralisation by drawing on the NHS’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The webinar will focus on examples where getting the degree of centralisation wrong contributed to high profile failures (e.g. track and trace) and where getting it right helped the NHS to succeed (e.g. Nightingale hospitals).

The webinar will also discuss how these examples helped us to better understand the challenge of centralisation versus decentralisation in organisations generally, and provide some rules of thumb for making better decisions about this key organisational choice.


Carol Propper: Carol Propper CBE FBA is Professor of Economics at Imperial College Business School and Professor of Economics of Public Policy at Bristol University. She is also a senior research associate with the Nuffield Trust, and has served on the Economic and Social Research Council Research Grants Board.

Nelson Phillips: Professor Nelson Phillips, Abu Dhabi Chamber Chair in Innovation and Strategy and Associate Dean of External Relations at Imperial College Business School is Programme Co-Director of Imperial Leadership in a Technology Driven World Programme. Nelson teaches courses in strategy, organisation behaviour, innovation, and leadership at the undergraduate and graduate level. In addition, he is active in executive education where he has been involved in program design and delivery for a wide range of clients including Allen & Overy, the Royal Society, Telefonica, BT, Atkins, Shell and Arup. His research interest include entrepreneurship, technology strategy and innovation, organisation theory and qualitative research methods.

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