Reform stress in the public sector: does the constant exposure to anti-bureaucratic reforms paradoxically undermine the entrepreneurial nature of public sector organizations?


In response to economic pressures and increasing demands on public sector performance, subsequent waves of public sector reforms were introduced over the last decades. During these reform waves, public sector organizations were subject to a wide array of structural changes happening in rapid succession. While there is little consistency in these reforms, a strong focus on creating entrepreneurial, non-bureaucratic organizations is one tenet all reforms share. Yet literature warns for reform fatigue and reform stress within organizations, suggesting that such a constant exposure to structural changes may in fact undermine the anti-bureaucracy objective of reforms. Reform programs thus may defeat their own purposes. Nonetheless, public administration research has largely neglected the impact of such sequential, repeated and often-conflicting structural reforms on public sector organizations. This innovative research addresses this gap and seeks to explore the effect of accumulated reform stress, caused by intensive past structural reforms, on the entrepreneurial nature of public sector organizations. This is studied using cross-country data, through case studies and by employing an innovative statistical technique that allows to mimic an experimental research design. In addition, important institutional and politico-administrative variables are controlled for. Although the prime focus is theoretical – the aim is to understand the effects of multiple reforms on the entrepreneurial nature of public sector organizations – the implications are profoundly practical and help policy-makers to improve public services.





Dr. J. Wynen

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Universiteit Antwerpen, Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen, Research Group Public Administration & Management


Dr. J. Wynen


01/03/2018 tot 01/12/2020