Can enhanced performance management support public sector change?

Fiona Buick (Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)
Deborah Ann Blackman (School of Business, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia)
Michael Edward O'Donnell (School of Business, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia)
Janine Louise O'Flynn (School of Government, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Damian West (Client Engagement Group, Australian Public Service Commission, Canberra, Australia)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 13 April 2015



The purpose of this paper is to focus on the potential role that performance management could play in enabling employees’ adaptability to change and, therefore, successful change implementation.


This research adopted a qualitative case study research design, focussed on seven case studies within the Australian Public Service (APS). This study utilized documentary analysis, semi-structured individual and group interviews.


The findings of this research demonstrate that adaptability to change is integral for high performance; however, the constant change faced by many public servants is disruptive. The authors posit that applying a performance framework developed by Blackman et al. (2013a, b) to change implementation will help overcome, or at least mitigate, these issues. The authors argue that applying this framework will: enable adaptability to change; and provide an ongoing management function that enables change to occur.

Research limitations/implications

This research has been limited to seven organizations within the APS, yet it does reveal interesting implications in terms of the apparent role of performance management in both developing change capacity and supporting espoused outcomes.

Practical implications

This research identifies the potential role that performance management can play in supporting effective change implementation through enabling employees to cope better with the change through enabling clarity, purpose and alignment with the organizational direction.


The originality of this paper stems from the synthesis of different strands of literature, specifically high performance, performance management and change management, and empirical research in the public sector to provide a new way of looking at performance management as a change enabler.



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC). The APSC is a key partner in this research, which is a co-production partnership between the APSC and two Australian universities, the University of Canberra and the University of New South Wales, Canberra. The co-production partnership has meant that the APSC has been intimately involved in the establishment of the research design, facilitating academic access to the seven case study organizations, conducting fieldwork, writing practitioner research reports, engaging in team discussions and data analysis, identifying the key themes emerging from this research and writing of academic publications, including this paper, “Can enhanced performance management support public sector change?” The authors would also like to acknowledge the seven case study organizations that provided considerable in-kind support and enabled data collection to occur.


Buick, F., Blackman, D., O'Donnell, M., O'Flynn, J. and West, D. (2015), "Can enhanced performance management support public sector change?", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 271-289.

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