Held Back and Pushed Forward: Leading Organizational Change in a Complex Public Environment
Van der Voet, J., Kuipers, B.S. & Groeneveld, S.M. (2014). Held back and pushed forward: Leading organizational change in a complex public environment.
Journal of Organizational Change Management, Forthcoming
22 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2014 Last revised: 10 Nov 2014
Date Written: June 20, 2014
Purpose. Recent studies have suggested that the specific characteristics of public organizations may have a bearing on the implementation of organizational change. Public organizations typically operate in an environment characterized by checks and balances, shared power, divergent interests and the primacy of politics. The objective of this study is to advance our understanding of how this complex environment affects the implementation and leadership of change.
Design/methodology/approach. A case study of the merger of three governmental departments in a Dutch city was conducted. The merger took place in an environment that became increasingly complex as the implementation process progressed. Interviews were conducted with 23 managers that were involved in the organizational change.
Findings. A high degree of environmental complexity forces public organizations to adopt a planned, top-down approach to change, while simultaneously the effectiveness of such an approach to change is limited. In addition, we find that with increasing environmental complexities, internally focused transformational leadership is accompanied by a network approach of leadership.
Originality/value. This study provides empirical evidence about organizational change in public organizations and formulates theoretical propositions to direct future research.
Keywords: Change management, organizational change, change leadership, complexity, public sector, public organizations
JEL Classification: M1, M10, M12, M14, O3, O00, L3, L30, L31, L32, L33, L39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation