Unleashing Change

Unleashing Change: A Study of Organizational Renewal in Government

Steven Kelman
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 308
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt1287bs6
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  • Book Info
    Unleashing Change
    Book Description:

    This is a hopeful account of the potential for organizational change and improvement within government. Despite the mantra that "people resist change," it is possible to effect meaningful reform in a large bureaucracy. InUnleashing Change, public management expert Steven Kelman presents a blueprint for accomplishing such improvements, based on his experience orchestrating procurement reform in the 1990s. Kelman's focuses on making change happen on the front lines, not just getting it announced by senior policymakers. He argues that frequently there will be a constituency for change within government organizations. The role for leaders is not to force change on the unwilling but to unleash the willing, and to persist long enough for the change to become institutionalized. Drawing on the author's own personal experience and extensive research among frontline civil servants, as well as literature in organization theory and psychology, Unleashing Change presents an approach for improving agency performance from soup to nuts -mixing theory with practice. Its analysis is innovative and empirically rich. Kelman's conclusions challenge conventional notions about achieving reform in large organizations and mark a major advance in theories of organizational change. His lessons will be of interest not only to scholars interested in improving the performance of the public sector, but for anyone struggling to manage a large organization. "Steve Kelman's creative research, augmented by his own considerable experience as a reform-minded federal official, gives this book unusual depth and authenticity." -Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School, author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9776-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Organizational Change and Improving the Performance of Government
    (pp. 1-9)

    Government does not perform as well as it should. Some of government’s bad reputation is unfair. As Thomas Hobbes has noted, inLeviathan,government makes human cooperation possible by defining the rules of the game and protecting cooperators from predators. Without such government efforts, even marketplace relationships, sometimes erroneously seen as “natural” and independent of government, would have a difficult time getting established. One need look no further than Russia in the years after communism collapsed, when government was weak; at societies such as Nigeria for many years after independence, where government simply was a means used by the powerful...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Traditional Procurement System and the Difficulties of Change
    (pp. 10-36)

    Procurement reform sought to reduce bureaucracy in the procurement system. The traditional procurement system was bureaucratic in the sense this word is used in organization theory to describe a form of organizational structure. Max Weber’s renowned essay enumerates five features of bureaucratic organization.¹ For my purposes here, these may be collapsed into three: extensive use of rules, hierarchy, and specialization.²

    Rules lay out in advance what an employee is to do in a particular situation. “If faced with x, do y” is the basic structure of a rule. Employees do not need to work their way through the situation to...

  6. Part One: Initiating Change

    • CHAPTER 3 Discontent on the Front Lines
      (pp. 39-58)

      At the beginning of the new Clinton administration, senior leaders announced an effort to change the government’s procurement system. However, given the obstacles to organizational change presented earlier, it would not have been surprising if reformers had, in effect, given a party to which nobody came. On the front lines of the system, reform might have been ignored or “slow rolled,” passively resisted by foot-dragging. Procurement reform could well have ended up dead on arrival.

      That, however, did not happen. Change was successfully initiated; it gained a foothold on the front lines. Furthermore, this occurred without the use of tactics...

    • CHAPTER 4 Joining the Reform Coalition
      (pp. 59-81)

      Not everyone discontented with the traditional system joined the reform coalition. The factors encouraging resistance to change discussed in chapter 2 reduced the level of discontent below what it would otherwise have been. But these factors may also have held people back from becoming part of the reform coalition, even if they felt dissatisfaction with the status quo. Conversely, factors in addition to the level of discontent may have encouraged some to become initial supporters of reform.

      What drove people to join the reform coalition, and what differentiated the change vanguard from early recruits? In the “activating the discontented” theory...

    • CHAPTER 5 Changes at the Top and the Unleashing of Reform
      (pp. 82-95)

      At the time procurement reform was announced, there was support on the front lines for the traditional system but also discontent. Yet there was little sign of any brewing front line movement for change. Proclamation of reform by leaders at the top, an action undertaken independently of the development of discontent on the front lines, constituted a sort of exogenous shock to the politics of buying offices. This shock provided the change vanguard with the opportunity to initiate reform, something they had wanted to do even before reform was announced. Through their actions, top leaders, in effect, intervened in the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Initiating Change: Implications for Theory and Practice
      (pp. 96-108)

      The initiation of frontline change in this account is a story of politics. Procurement reform was not initiated by way of any of the three theories of change initiation—persuasive discussion, leader pressure, or the burning platform—present in the existing literature. As in the persuasive-discussion theory, support of people at working levels was an important factor in allowing change to get started. But contra the Lewinian tradition, change initiation required no unfreezing of existing attitudes. Contra the guru literature, there is little evidence that leaders dragged front line people kicking and screaming to change or that they either created...

  7. Part Two: Consolidating Change

    • CHAPTER 7 How a Change Effort Feeds on Itself: Theory
      (pp. 111-134)

      Initially, only a minority supported procurement reform. But by the time of the Frontline Survey, five years after the change effort had begun, a clear majority had a favorable attitude, and significant reform-oriented change in behavior had occurred. This part of the study examines how change got consolidated.

      Just as there are conventional prescriptions for launching a change effort, so too there are corresponding ones for consolidating change, also based on the premise that people resist change. These prescriptions do a better job of explaining the expansion of support for procurement reform than did the conventional prescriptions for launching change....

    • CHAPTER 8 How a Change Effort Feeds on Itself: Evidence
      (pp. 135-159)

      Positive feedback promoted support for procurement reform, allowing it to increase beyond the level warranted by inherent features of experience with it. Indeed, one central finding in this chapter is quite dramatic: at the very beginning of procurement reform, the effort was launched on a path producing a self-sustaining increase in, and hence eventual consolidation of, reform support through positive feedback mechanisms alone, providing nothing acted to slow or reverse consolidation of support (such as, most obviously, poor actual experience). This finding is based on empirical impacts specific to the case of procurement reform. There are reasons to believe we...

    • CHAPTER 9 From Attitude to Behavior
      (pp. 160-178)

      Up to now, the discussion has focused on the consolidation of change in terms of creating increased attitudinal support for procurement reform. At the end of the day, however, consolidating change requires new behaviors as well. What are the determinants of behavior change?

      Reform-oriented behavior change was measured in the Frontline Survey through a question asking, “In terms of the way you do your job every day, how much impact has acquisition reform had?” The four alternatives were “It has significantly changed the way I do my job”; “It has had some impact on the way I do my job”;...

    • CHAPTER 10 “Deepening” and Organizational Change
      (pp. 179-200)

      I use the termdeepeningto mean expansion over time of the extensiveness and character of new behaviors or beliefs someone supporting a change effort is willing to endorse. Partly, deepening may simply be a matter of numbers: someone originally willing to endorse only a small number of changes becomes willing to support a larger number. But deepening often involves a transformation in the nature of changes endorsed. From being willing to agree only to changes reflecting personal discontents, a person comes to accept changes reflecting an ideological agenda; from accepting only changes close to the familiar, a person becomes...

    • CHAPTER 11 Consolidating Change: Implications for Theory and Practice
      (pp. 201-214)

      Five years into the change effort, procurement reform had produced significant changes on the front lines of the system. It had won the battle for the hearts and minds of those on the front lines, and proreform attitudes had gotten significantly translated into behavior. Reform had become reality. Furthermore, although reform as practiced included a larger dose of streamlining than the leaders at the top would have chosen—reflecting the influence of those at the bottom—it also included a bigger dose of better-value changes than people at the bottom would have brought about on their own—reflecting influences of...

  8. Appendixes

    • APPENDIX A Specifying Models and Determinants
      (pp. 215-231)
    • APPENDIX B Methodological Considerations Involved in Using Only One Case
      (pp. 232-236)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 237-296)
  10. Index
    (pp. 297-308)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-309)