Culture Change Drivers in the Public Sector

By Karen A. Somerville and Lorraine Dyke.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Continuous change has become the norm for many organizations (Rossi, 2006). Unfortunately, success rates, even for small scale change initiatives, are unimpressive (e.g., Hirschhorn, 2002). These poor success rates may be attributed to the lack of clear guidance regarding the key independent variables, or change drivers, that are available for manipulation in order to effect change (Porras & Hoffer, 1996; Kemelgor, Johnson & Srinivasan, 2000). According to Rodrigues (2006), very little is known about how organizational culture changes over time and what drives the process.
We report on a study of a large-scale organizational culture change initiative in the Canadian federal government. In a sample of 51 organizations, we examined changes in nine dimensions of organizational culture over a six-year time period. Seven possible drivers of culture change were examined: vision, leaders’ actions, changes in leadership personnel, turnover of personnel, changes in human resources practices, communication, and enabling changes in structure and processes. Data on these change drivers were collected from multiple sources including questionnaires sent to each organization and data held by government central agencies.

Results suggest that the key drivers of organizational culture change are changes in leadership personnel and changes in human resources practices. Contrary to much of the literature, our results suggest that changes in leadership personnel may have a negative impact on culture change.

Keywords: Organizational Culture, Organizational Change, Change Drivers, Public Service, Change Management

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp.149-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 735.502KB).

Dr. Karen A. Somerville

PhD Candidate, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Ms. Karen Somerville is a Ph.D. Candidate with the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada. She expects to defend her thesis in 2007. Ms. Somerville's main research interests include organizational culture, organizational change, organizational behaviour and women in management. With extensive work experience in the private sector, the public sector, as well as the not for profit sector, Ms. Somerville is able to blend the theory with practical application in workplaces. This focus guides her research interests and ensures that her research provides value for organizations.

Dr. Lorraine Dyke

Associate Professor, Eric Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Dr. Lorraine Dyke is an Associate Professor in the Eric Sprott School of Business at Carleton University where she teaches courses in Management and Organizational Behaviour, Women in Management, Managing Workforce Diversity and Managing Groups. Dr. Dyke is also the founder and current Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work and the Management Development Program for Women at Carleton. Professor Dyke holds an M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Management from Queen's University. Dr. Dyke's research interests centre on careers, the changing workplace and women in management. Dr. Dyke is a co-author of two monographs: Career Development in the Public Service: Building a World-Class Workforce published by Treasury Board in 1999 and Managing High Technology Employees published by Carswell in 2000. She is the author of numerous research articles and has received extensive funding for her research. She is also the recipient of three Best Paper Awards from the Academy of Management and the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada. Dr. Dyke was recently nominated as a YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction in the Learning for Life category.


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