LEADING CHANGE IN PUBLIC
ORGANIZATIONS
Advanced Research Seminar
ESADE – Institute for Public Governance and
Management
13th March 2014
Joris van der Voet
SHORT BIO
Born in Leiden, The Netherlands, 1986
 2004-2008: Studied Public Administration at
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


Msc. in Human Resource Management and Change
Management in Public Organizations
2008-2009: Academic teacher at EUR
 2009-2013: Ph.D. in Public Management at EUR


Thesis: Leading change in public organizations
2013-2014: Researcher on COCOPS project
 1st March 2014: Post doctoral researcher at
ESADE

OUTLINE

Introducing myself

Introducing the research theme

‘The effectiveness and specificity of change
management in a public organization’






Objectives
Theory
Methodology
Results
Conclusions and implications
Main conclusions of my Ph.D. research, and practical
implications
PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS AND CHANGE
PARADIGMS OF REFORM
OPA
• Dominance of the
rule of law and
politics
• Separation of
politics and
administration
• Central role for
the
administration in
delivering
services
• Hierarchy
NPM
• Run government
like a business
• Focus on
performance,
efficiency and
results
• Freedom to
manage /
‘entrepreneurial
leadership’
• Markets,
competition,
contracts
‘NPG’
• Interdependence
• Pluralism
• Networks
• Public private
partnerships
• Co-creation / coproduction
PARADIGMS OF REFORM?
OPA
• Dominance of the
rule of law
• Separation of
politics and
administration
• Central role for
the
administration in
delivering
services
• Hierarchy
NPM
• Run government
like a business
• Focus on
performance,
efficiency and
results
• Freedom to
manage /
‘entrepreneurial
leadership’
• Markets,
competition,
contracts
‘NPG’
• Interdependence
• Pluralism
• Networks
• Public private
partnerships
• Co-creation / coproduction



A (desired) changing role of government should
have consequences at the organizational level
Without changes in the way public organizations
operate and the behavior and attitudes of civil
servants, nothing will change!
This makes organizational change in public
organizations a relevant research theme
SHORTCOMINGS OF THE PUBLIC
MANAGEMENT LITERATURE ON CHANGE


Kuipers et al. (in press at Public Administration):
Review of the literature 2000-2010: 141 articles on
change in the public sector






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Use the strengths of (different) theoretical approaches
In-depth empirical studies of the change process
Work with practitioners (empirical evidence)
Incorporate attention to the outcomes and successes of
change
More emphasis on leadership
Discrepancies and interactions between micro- and sectorlevel changes
Comparative studies of the management of change
SHORTCOMINGS OF THE PUBLIC
MANAGEMENT LITERATURE ON CHANGE:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Often focused on reforms on the national or
sector level, rather than change on the
organizational level
Attention is focused on the content of changes
rather than on the process through which
organizational change comes about
Research designs often lack an outcome variable
that allows the formulation of conclusions about
the effectiveness or results of change
implementation
Do not theorize how the specific characteristics
of public sector organizations affect the process
of change or its outcomes
THE SPECIFICITY OF PUBLIC
ORGANIZATIONS

Environmental factors




Organization/environment transactions




No market environment but budget mechanisms
Presence of elaborate formal restraints
Presence of intensive political influences
Public organizations produce ‘public goods’ and are often monopolists
Public managers are subject to more intense scrutiny
Role model: expected to have higher degree of fairness, honesty,
openness and accountability
Organizational roles, structure, processes
Multiple, conflicting and vague goals
More red tape, more complex organizational structures and
procedural requirements
 Less-decision making autonomy for managers
 Vulnerable to intervention of external groups
 Greater caution, reluctance to innovate


Adapted from Pollitt (2003) / Rainey (2003) / Boyne (2002)
The effectiveness and specificity of change
management in a public organization:
Transformational leadership and a
bureaucratic organizational structure
Joris van der Voet
Forthcoming in the European Management Journal
OBJECTIVES

Observations in the literature:
Much of what is known about change management is based
on private sector research, cases and examples.
 In studies that do focus on public organizations,

1.
2.
3.

Little attention for implementation processes
Little focus on effects, outcomes or ‘success’ of change
implementation
Little attention for the specific context of public organizations
Focus of the study:
What factors contribute to effective implementation in
public organizations?
 To what extent does the distinctive nature of public
organizations make the implementation of change specific?

THEORY:
‘CHANGE MANAGEMENT THEORY’

Two central premises:
1.
Change is most easily implemented when there
is support for change among employees
2.
Employee support for change is not only
dependent on ‘what’ changes in the
organization, but also on ‘how’ the change comes
about
THEORY:
DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO CHANGE

Change management literature: planned vs. emergent change
Planned change
Emergent change
Top-down, episodic and
programmatic
Bottom-up, continuous and openended
Detailed objectives are
formulated at the beginning of
the process
Only a general direction is
known
Emphasis on the content of
change
Emphasis on the process of
change
Employees are passive recipients
Employees are active
participants

Leadership as a central factor
THEORY:
CHANGE LEADERSHIP
Leadership believed to be crucial for implementing
change
‘Leading change’ is concerned with motivating and
stimulating others (i.e. employees) to implement the
change
 Research is mostly focused on individuals at the top
organizational level
 It is about behaviors and activities, rather than traits
or personal characteristics


However, there little evidence of the contribution
of leadership during change, especially in the
public sector
THEORY:
THEORY OF TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP

‘Transformational leadership’ (Bass, 1985):


Transformational leaders can ultimately transform the
organization “by defining the need for change, creating new
visions, [and] mobilizing commitment to these visions”
(Den Hartog et al., 1997: p. 20).
Multiple dimensions (Podsakoff et al. 1990):



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

Articulating vision (inspires with future plans)
Provide appropriate model (is a good example)
Foster acceptance goals (gets people to work together)
High performance expectancy (insists on high performance)
Individual support (considers personal needs and feelings)
Intellectual stimulation (inspires to think in new ways)
THEORY:
WHAT TYPE OF LEADERSHIP IS REQUIRED?
Planned change
Emergent change
Type of leadership
activities needed
-Initiating change
-Creating a vision
-Communicating the
vision
-Being a role model
-Creating commitment
-Redirecting ongoing
change
-Making others
accountable
-Creating connections
-Fostering
experimentation
-Taking a step back
Theoretical connections
-Transformational
leadership (Bass, 1985)
-Management guru’s
(Kotter, 1996; Kanter,
1990)
-‘Laissez faire’
leadership
-Servant leadership
(Van Dierendonck, 2009)
-‘FRAMCAP’ (Higgs,
2010)
Metaphor
‘Superhero’
‘Invisible man’
THEORY:
HYPOTHESIS 1


In planned processes of change, transformational
leaders can be expected to be uniquely effective
change leaders (Eisenbach et al., 1999; Higgs &
Rowland, 2011)
Hypothesis 1: A higher degree of
transformational leadership of direct supervisors
will increase the effectiveness of a planned
process of change, but it will not increase the
effectiveness of an emergent process of change
THEORY AND HYPOTHESES:
HOW TO ASSESS ‘EFFECTIVENESS’?


Employee support is crucial for ‘effective’ or
‘successful’ change
Focus on willingness to change (Metselaar, 1997:
p. 42):
“a positive behavioral intention towards the
implementation of modifications in an organization’s
structure, or work and administrative processes, resulting
in efforts from the organization’s member side to support or
enhance the change process”
THEORY AND HYPOTHESES:
THE ‘SPECIFICITY’ OF CHANGE IN PUBLIC
ORGANIZATIONS



Public organizations are often argued to be
characterized by a bureaucratic organizational
structure (Andrews, Boyne, Law & Walker, 2009;
Pandey & Moynihan, 2006)
A bureaucracy is an organization in which in
which operations are to a large extent
predetermined and predictable (Mintzberg, 1979)
Characteristics:
Centralization
 Formalization
 Red tape

THEORY AND HYPOTHESES:
BUREAUCRACIES AND PROCESSES OF CHANGE

Conceptual arguments (but no empirical evidence):



A planned approach to change is most suitable for rule-based,
rigid organizational structures (Coram and Burnes, 2001)
A top-down bureaucratic management style is associated with
planned change, while a more decentralized, flexible
management style corresponds with emergent change
(Burnes, 1996)
Bureaucratic organizational structures are negatively
related to:
Innovative solutions (Atuahene-Gima 2003, Damanpour 1991)
Centralization is related to stability, while innovative,
prospecting organizations are characterized by decentralized
decision-making structures (Andrews, Boyne, Law & Walker,
2009; Walker, 2008
 Adaptation and learning (Hage & Aiken, 1970; Lawrence &
Lorsch, 1979; Mintzberg, 1979)
 Experimentation (March & Simon, 1958)


THEORY AND HYPOTHESES:
HYPOTHESES 2 AND 3


H2: The more bureaucratic the organizational
structure, the more employee willingness to
change is positively influenced by a planned
process of change.
H3: The less bureaucratic the organizational
structure, the more employee willingness to
change is positively influenced by an emergent
process of change
METHODOLOGY:
DESIGN AND CASE SELECTION

Case study design

Urban Development Rotterdam
Local Government organization
Result of recent merger of Development
Agency Rotterdam (DAR) and Agency of City
Construction and Housing (ACCH)
 Many ongoing changes aimed at improving
efficiency and performance (NPM) and more
collaboration, “less rowing, more steering”
(NPG)



Reasons for case selection
Different change approaches between the
many departments within the organization
 Differing degree of perceived bureaucracy
between DAR and ACCH departments

METHODOLOGY:
METHODS



Quantitative methods
Online survey among all employees in May 2012
about the ongoing changes, the organizational
change, and their direct supervisors
580 of 1353 employees completed the survey
(42,8%)
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES
Planned change and emergent change
 Transformational leadership style
 Bureaucracy

Centralization
 Formalization
 Red tape

Willingness to change
 Control variables: gender, age, education level,
tenure, supervisory position

PROCEDURE AND TECHNIQUES



DAR departments are significantly more bureaucratic than
ACCH departments
In order to test the moderating effects of bureaucratic
organizational structure, we compared a high bureaucracy
model (DAR) with a low bureaucracy model (ACCH)
Regression analyses and plotted moderating effects
RESULTS
General
model
Planned Change
Emergent Change
Transformational Leadership
Planned*Transformational L.
Emergent*Transformational L.
Low
High
bur
bur
model
model
.169*
.113
.251*
.139
-.038
.237*
.142*
.199
.154
-.173*
-.124
-.085
.046
.222*
-.106
GENERAL MODEL
5
Willingness to change
4.5
4
3.5
Low transfor
3
High transfor
2.5
2
1.5
1
Low planned
High planned
LOW BUREAUCRACY MODEL
5
Willingness to change
4.5
4
3.5
Low transfor
3
High transfor
2.5
2
1.5
1
Low emergent
High emergent
RESULTS
General
model
Planned Change
Emergent Change
Transformational Leadership
Planned*Transformational L.
Emergent*Transformational L.
Low
High
bur
bur
model
model
.169*
.113
.251*
.139
-.038
.237*
.142*
.199
.154
-.173*
-.124
-.085
.046
.222*
-.106
CONCLUSIONS



H1: A higher degree of transformational leadership of
direct supervisors will increase the effectiveness of a
planned process of change, but it will not increase
effectiveness of an emergent process of change
H2: The more bureaucratic the organizational
structure, the more employee willingness to change is
positively influenced by a planned process of change.
H3: The less bureaucratic the organizational
structure, the more employee willingness to change is
positively influenced by an emergent process of
change
IMPLICATIONS





Both planned and emergent change can be used to create
support for change in public organizations
High levels of bureaucracy do not impede the effectiveness
of emergent approaches to change
The leadership of direct supervisors may be an important
contribution to create employee support for change
In fact, in emergent processes of change, leadership role is
a crucial factor
However, in highly bureaucratic organizations, the
leadership role of direct supervisors contributes little to
emergent change
Leading change in public organizations
A study about the role of leadership in the
implementation of organizational change in a
public sector context
Main conclusions and practical implications
RESEARCH QUESTION
To what extent and how does leadership affect the
implementation of change and its outcomes, given
the specific context of public organizations?

Focus on:
Complex organizational environment
 Bureaucratic organizational structure

MAIN CONCLUSIONS
1.
Their environmental and structural characteristics
cause public organizations to favor the adoption of a
planned change approach, while an emergent
change approach results in more support for change
among employees.
2.
Despite the tendency of public organizations to
adopt a planned change approach, both senior and
lower level managers may contribute to the adoption
of an emergent change approach.
3.
Although favorable for support for change among
employees, organizational change in public
organizations requires a more elaborated type of
change leadership than a mere transformational
leadership style.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

Employees



Stimulate them to participate
IKEA-effect
Direct supervisors
Make them more important and complementary in planned
change
 Invest in leadership development of lower level managers!


Senior managers
Fight the urge to adopt a planned approach to change
(don’t become a ‘superhero’)
 Allow others to develop and lead the change


Political leaders
Politicians have tendency to ask for detailed time
plannings, step-by-step plans, etc.
 Successful change requires front-line participation,
experimentation and ownership

Thank you for listening!
www.jorisvandervoet.com
Managing Organizational Change in Public Services:
International issues, challenges and cases
Editors:
Prof. Rune Todnem By (Staffordshire University)
Dr. Ben S. Kuipers (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Dr. Joris van der Voet (ESADE)
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES
Centralization (Aiken & Hage, 1968; Pandey & Wright, 2006;
Jaworski & Kohli, 1993)
 There can be little action taken here until a supervisor
approves a decision.
 A person who wants to make his own decision would be
quickly discouraged here.
 Even small matters have to be referred to someone higher up
for a final answer.
 I have to ask my boss before I do almost anything.
 Any decision I make has to have my boss' approval.
Red Tape (Pandey & Scott, 2002)
 If red tape is defined as burdensome administrative rules and
procedures that have negative effects on the organization’s
effectiveness, how would you assess the level of red tape in
your organization?
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES
Formalization (Deshpande & Zaltman, 1982; Jaworski
& Kohli, 1993)
 I feel that I am my own boss in most matters. (R)
 A person can make his own decisions without
checking with anybody else. (R)
 How things are done around here is left up to the
person doing the work. (R)
 People here are allowed to do almost as they please.
(R)
 Most people here make their own rules on the job. (R)
 The employees are constantly being checked on for
rule violations.
 People here feel as though they are constantly being
watched to see that they obey all the rules.
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES
Planned change (Farell, 2000)
 Emanates from senior management.+
 Occurs through company-wide change programs.
 Occurs through changing individual knowledge and attitudes.+
 Occurs in an unplanned fashion.+ (R)
 Occurs through a systematic process of well-managed events.
 Is monitored through regular progress surveys.
Emergent change (Farell, 2000)
 Occurs through continually learning about our environment.
 Occurs by encouraging employees to understand and adapt to
changing circumstances in our environment.
 Is part of an ongoing process of adapting to our environment.
 Is a slow process, which emerges over time.+
 Is about matching the organizations’ capabilities to the business
environment.
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES

Transformational leadership (Podsakoff et al., 1990)
My direct supervisor …








Is always seeking new opportunities for the
organization.
Inspires others with his/her plans for the future.
Is able to get others committed to his/her dream.
Leads by “doing,” rather than simply by “telling.”
Leads by example.
Provides a good model for me to follow.
Fosters collaboration among work groups.
Etc.
METHODOLOGY:
MEASURES
Willingness to change (Metselaar, 1997)
1.
2.
3.
4.
I intend to try to convince employees of the benefits the
changes and developments within Urban Development
Rotterdam will bring.
I intend to put effort into achieving the goals of the
changes and developments within Urban Development
Rotterdam.
I intend to reduce resistance among employees regarding
the changes and developments within Urban
Development Rotterdam.
I intend to make time to implement the changes and
developments within Urban Development Rotterdam.
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Leading Change in Public Organizations