Mississippi State University
Rush, Christine L.
French, P. Edward
Shoup, Brian D.
Date of Degree
Original embargo terms
MSU Only Indefinitely
Dissertation - Campus Access Only
Public Policy and Public Administration
Doctor of Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Political Science and Public Administration
Can public organization managers respond to rapidly changing environmental conditions given that stability is a primary societal function of bureaucracies? If so, how might they successfully bring about change? Bennis (1966) states that examinations of organizational change fall into two categories: 1) those attempting to explain why organizations change and 2) those attempting to explain how organizations change. Those exploring why organizations change question the degree to which managers can serve as successful stimuli for transformation. This is true across public and private realms, but is particularly germane to public organizations, where managerial agency is restricted by accountability, civil service employee protections, and democratic norms. A Rational Adaptive philosophy of change suggests that managers can and do change organizations; however, with the exception of transformation in the face of budgetary and managerial crises, little evidence exists for manager-initiated, public organization change. Furthermore, prescriptions for how to bring about change are largely anecdotal and private-sector oriented. While Contingency Theory posits that no one-sizeits-all formula will suffice across all organization types and contexts, public administration scholars have proposed testable propositions regarding drivers of bureaucratic transformation. Using descriptive statistics, qualitative analysis, and logistic regression, this study examined one U.S. national agency’s attempt at transformational change to determine 1) the degree to which managers achieved success and 2) under what circumstances success was achieved. A theoretical typology for U.S. hierarchical, national agencies attempting internal policy change was proposed using the testable propositions, and a derivative model of change was tested to determine the types of manager-initiated efforts that yielded organizational change versus those that did not. Results suggest that, while transformational organizational change is challenging, managers of public organizations can create changes in employee attitudes and behavior in the absence of immediate crisis by communicating the vision for the change effectively and incorporating change-related routines in employees’ workplaces. Managerial support for the change may influence employee attitudes regarding the change and encourage support, while change-related incentives may promote behavior changes and adoption. Furthermore, adequate provision of change-related resources may be an important component in ensuring employees who desire to change can do so.
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