Purpose – The aim of this paper is to outline the sets of factors influential on the implementation of public management reform in the politico-administrative context of Italy. Design/methodology/approach – Provides a combination of different research designs, multiple case studies on regional governments. Findings – Some broad sets of factors affecting implementation of public management reform have been identified They include: characteristics of the administrative tradition and features of the politico-administrative context; the design of the reform package and the coalition of interests sustaining the reform; behavioural triggers; and the building over the time of management capacity at the level of individual public sector organisations. Research limitations/implications – Research limitations include the availability of empirical evidence given the width of the phenomenon under investigation, as well as the broader caveats that apply to researching vast and complex problems like those concerning management reforms at nation-wide level. Some implications for the development of a broader comparative research agenda on countries in the Napoleonic administrative tradition are proposed. Originality/value – Provides an interpretation of the dynamics of the process of implementation of public management reforms in Italy by combining a plurality of theoretical sources.