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The bubble strategy: A case study of dynamic, defensible processes of change in Salford

Peter Kawalek (Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 10 April 2007




This paper seeks to describe a “bubble strategy” to public sector change, based on the principles that a change initiative must be defensible and supportive of an alternative, entrepreneurial culture.


The research is developed through an action research case in Salford City Council, through which theory from technology innovation, change management and other sources is explored.


The paper finds that the managers developed a dynamic process wherein their ability to defend the new change initiative was primary. This required “under‐the‐radar” tactics that allowed different elements of the change initiative to grow before they were assessed or adopted by the wider organisation.

Research limitations/implications

The paper speculates on the ways in which the characteristics of the “bubble” could be adopted elsewhere. However, as an action research case, restrictions on the generalisability of the evidence are noted.

Practical implications

The “bubble” strategy is set out in its constituent parts and is thereby available for adoption elsewhere.


The strategy employed in the case is not documented elsewhere. The paper utilizes technology innovation theory and related literature like “skunk works”, outside their intended private sector context.



Kawalek, P. (2007), "The bubble strategy: A case study of dynamic, defensible processes of change in Salford", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 178-191.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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