This is a hopeful account of the potential for organizational change and improvement within government. Despite the mantra that “people resist change,” it is possible to effect meaningful reform in a large bureaucracy. In Unleashing Change, public management expert Steven Kelman presents a blueprint for accomplishing such improvements, based on his experience orchestrating procurement reform in the 1990s.
Kelman’s focuses on making change happen on the front lines, not just getting it announced by senior policymakers. He argues that frequently there will be a constituency for change within government organizations. The role for leaders is not to force change on the unwilling but to unleash the willing, and to persist long enough for the change to become institutionalized.
Drawing on the author’s own personal experience and extensive research among frontline civil servants, as well as literature in organization theory and psychology, Unleashing Change presents an approach for improving agency performance from soup to nuts—mixing theory with practice. Its analysis is innovative and empirically rich. Kelman’s conclusions challenge conventional notions about achieving reform in large organizations and mark a major advance in theories of organizational change. His lessons will be of interest not only to scholars interested in improving the performance of the public sector, but for anyone struggling to manage a large organization.