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A new view to assist public agency development

David L. Schwarzkopf (Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA)
Sean M. McDonald (Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to expand the research into the “micro-level” of the effects of evidence-based activity on organisational change by focusing on an economic development agency's (EDA's) effort to spread the use of standardised measurements to improve accountability for the use of public funds.


The authors interviewed 19 key managers and staff of a large British EDA. Participant comments revealed concerns deeper than the technical measurement issue the agency brought in to study. The authors reconceptualised these concerns using the notion of a centre of calculation.


Although the EDA focused on standardised measurement as a technical issue, the authors find organisational issues such as the need to reconcile differing perceptions of the importance of measurement, a desire to improve organisational learning and a tension between analysts and project managers impeding accountability efforts and delaying agency growth.

Research limitations/implications

Findings are based on interviews at one agency. The experience, however, suggests these issues are common to public agencies.

Practical implications

This model reveals technical concerns as part of more complex organisational issues – an understanding that may help public agencies better focus their accountability and development efforts.


The model the author's introduced informs studies of evidence-based policymaking at the intra-organisational level by showing that the technical aspects of agency work are part of a larger social concern. It also shows how standardisation for the sake of accountability paradoxically helps build agency power.



To maintain confidentiality, the authors have called the agency in the study “Lionheart”. The authors are grateful to the members of this agency for their time and cooperation. Bentley University provided funding for this research.


L. Schwarzkopf, D. and M. McDonald, S. (2014), "A new view to assist public agency development", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 922-934.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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