The effects of the 1989-97 French administrative reforms on the ministerial field services

  • Glyn Robert Walter Jones

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The research investigates the effects of the 1989-92 Public Service Renewal and 1995-1997 Reform of the State administrative reform programme on the ministerial field services. These reforms, through the processes of deconcentration and responsibilisation, delegated increased autonomy to the field services in their operational management to enable them to improve their delivery of policy objectives. The primary research question was whether operational and institutional factors at field service level impeded or facilitated moves towards a more managerial logic of appropriateness as envisaged by the reform programmes. Through an institutional analysis of the French administrative reform process, a number of institutional and operational factors were identified that would determine the capacity of the field services to engage in the reform process. These factors included the concessions made by the reforms to the field services in budgetary and human resource management, the incentives for field service officials to participate and the extent to which both the field services and their central Ministries were able to adjust to the requirements of the reform. In addition, there were the conservative influences of the trade unions, the effects of budgetary cutbacks and the contextual backgrounds of the respective Ministries that were influences on the receptivity of the field service to change. Burgelman's 'Model of the Interaction of Strategic Behavior, Corporate Context and the Concept of Strategy' was used as the theoretical framework through which the findings from the fieldwork investigations conducted in the Education, Agriculture and Infrastructure Ministries were interpreted. The theoretical framework was found to be applicable to the French administrative context through its articulation of those over their operations and to show greater initiative. Burgelman's criteria for autonomous strategic behaviour were, therefore, adapted to the French administrative reform context and utilised as a structural framework through which the research findings were presented. The establishment of whether the respective criterial had been met provided a means to identify those institutional and operational variables which influenced the capacity of the field services to exercise greater autonomy in their operational management. The explanatory insights of Burgelman's model show how the resilience of traditional institutional features and the effects of budgetary cutbacks minimised the impact of the Public Service Renewal and the Reform of the State programmes in those field services of the Education, Agriculture and Infrastructure Ministries where fieldwork was carried out. The conditions within the French administration were found to be more constraining on the organisational behaviour of officials than Burgelman's model, based on a large scale private sector organisation envisages. Burgelman's model was able to identify the organisational dynamics that constrain reform, but was not able to trace the source of these constraints into a wider social context. It was found that insights from sociological and rational choice institutionalist perspectives clarified the missing social elements of Burgelman's model. The final chapter examines how the organisational dynamics identified in the study could be used as the basis for a generalised framework.
    Date of Award2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Nottingham Trent University

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