It is often assumed in the literature on public management reforms that radical changes in values, work and organization have occurred or are under way. In this paper our aim is to raise questions about this account. Focusing on three services in the UK, each dominated by organized professions – health care, housing, and social services – significant variations in the effectiveness of reforms are noted. The available research also suggests that these outcomes have been inversely proportional to the efforts expended on introducing new management practices. The most radical changes have been in housing, where, paradoxically, successive UK governments focused least attention. By contrast, in health and social services, management restructuring has been less effective, despite the greater resources devoted to it. This variation is attributed to professional values and institutions, against which reforms were directed, and the extent to which different groups became locked either into strategies of resistance or accommodation.