While I was changing jobs last autumn, I was also working on some research looking at the experiences of public sector organisations that transfer to the status of mutuals. Given that this is quite a major policy theme for the Coalition government, this is a relevant issue at the moment. The resulting report, Becoming a Public Service Mutual, co-authored with my successor Ruth Yeoman, is now published, and you can download it here [pdf].
The report is based on a number of case studies of individual organisations that had been spun out of state ownership, into some form of employee and user ownership (although the status of that 'ownership' tended to remain a little ambiguous, given that a degree of risk and often some assets remain with the traditional public sector). These are in sectors such as housing, health and social care, and in all cases, some sort of new governance model was required, to reinvent accountability and hierachy in ways that were distinct from standard public sector bureaucracy.
In terms of political economy more broadly, what I found interesting about visiting these organisations and interviewing their management was that they have to adopt a very different approach to risk and failure, which defies tidy quantification. Basically, they don't quite know what they're doing much of the time, and have to adapt to that fact. But - as any good Hayekian will tell you - nobody really ever knows quite what they're doing when seeking complex forms of coordination, and it's better when those in authority are aware of this, than if they come to believe that things like spreadsheets and audits will protect them. There's a sense of humility about these organisations, born partly out of the fact that they've often had to invent their governance structures out of thin air, and can't be entirely sure that they won't fail in some unpredictable sense. This makes technical risk management harder, but probably makes the collective intelligence and learning far greater. New Public Management techniques are therefore mitigating against precisely the forms of practice and co-operation that might rescue effective public sector governance from a descent into technocratic stagnation (as David Graeber argues in this superb piece, "whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former").
What you discover, when you visit a co-operative or a mutual that is succeeding (or at least not failing, which, contrary to Blairite rhetoric, is more fundamental), is that a new concept of individual agency has emerged, which is unlike those which are handed down from the HR profession or agency theory. It's a concept of agency which is socio-economic, messy, aware of longer-term consequences (which doesn't necessarily translate into taking responsibility for those consequences, but at least can do), and capable of dialogue. What I don't know is whether such a form of agency could ever be translated into formulaic templates, training or audit, without losing what makes it valuable in the first place.