The paper proposes to look at the transformational strategies undertaken in relation to the 1989‐1997 French administrative reform process and to examine their impact on the ministerial field services through using Burgelman's “model of the interaction of strategic behaviour, corporate context and the concept of strategy”.
Empirical research was carried out in a field service of the French Education Ministry with the presentation of the findings being structured around Burgelman's criteria for autonomous strategic behaviour. These criteria – operational slack, project champion, circumvention of the structural context and organisational champion – provided a mechanism to assess whether operational and institutional factors at field service level impeded or facilitated moves towards a more managerial logic of appropriateness as envisaged by the reform programmes during this period.
The explanatory insights of Burgelman's model show how the resilience of traditional institutional features minimised the transformational impact of the reforms.
Burgelman's model is able to facilitate a greater understanding of the 1989‐1997 French administrative reform process through identifying those conditions conducive to micro‐organisational actors exercising greater autonomy in their operational management. In this way, the organisational dynamics that constrained the transformational impact of the reforms could be highlighted and an explanation provided of why the respective reform programmes had minimal effect at field service level.
The paper will be of relevance to those interested in the effect of the new public management agenda on national administrations in Europe and the applicability of private sector models in affording explanatory insights into such processes of change.
Jones, G. (2006), "Why public sector reform does not transform: A processual explanation of the 1989‐1997 French experience", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 79-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610640410Download as .RIS
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