From bureaucratic to post‐bureaucratic: the difficulties of transition

Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Organizational Change Management, 2006, 19 (1), pp. 54 - 64
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Purpose – Modern bureaucracies are under reconstruction, bureaucracy being no longer “modern”; they are becoming “post” bureaucratic. Defining the post‐bureaucratic organization as a hybrid form provides insight into the intrinsic difficulties involved in the refurbishment of large complex organizations. The purpose of this paper is to examine these difficulties empirically. Design/methodology/approach – The paper describes the case of an Australian public sector agency, subject to “corporatization” – a metamorphosis from a strictly public sector outlook to one that was imputedly more commercial. It focuses on the transition from personnel management to strategic HRM in the HR function. Findings – A series of difficulties affected these changes: difficulties in inventing a new identity; differences in perception of that identity; organizational philosophy towards strategic HRM; unsuitability of extent networks; and identity conflicts. Two factors emerge as the core explanation for the difficulties encountered: the “stickiness of identity” and the difficulties associated with network development. Originality/value – The paper outlines the difficulties experienced in the putative “refurbishment” of a large public sector agency as it made its way to “corporatization”.
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