Incrementalism and strategic change: a university's experience

Michela Arnaboldi (Dipartimento di Ingegneria Gestionale, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy)
Giovanni Azzone (Dipartimento di Ingegneria Gestionale, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The processual interpretation of strategic change has been often applied to private companies searching for a logic behind their apparent chaotic transformation. The purpose of this paper is to report on an experience in a public organisation, an Italian university, where this perspective is exceptionally reflected, entailing a refining process towards a new strategy.


The longitudinal case study was carried out analyzing different subunits within this institution, investigating the way in which top managers have tried to re‐position the organisation, taking advantage of the increased autonomy given by a series of reforms of the academic system.


The results show an incremental process towards autonomy and accountability, through which top managers have transformed the organisational structure, identified responsibilities, and introduced a new set of managerial techniques.


This study shows how the combination of three elements – logic, incrementalism and accounting – has guided the institution in the trajectory of its transformation.



Arnaboldi, M. and Azzone, G. (2005), "Incrementalism and strategic change: a university's experience", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 552-563.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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