Managing Change in the Public Sector: Theory and Challenge

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Simon Bastow

The course is team taught, with contributions from the Department of Accounting.


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Public Management and Governance. This course is available on the MPhil/ PhD in Employment Relations & Org Behaviour and MPhil/ PhD in Management. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course is organised into three parts covering the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, as follows:

1. Developing the knowledge, methods, and skills to design and implement improvements in public sector services and programmes, with emphasis on the challenges for public managers, (MT weeks 1 to 11)
2. Using systematically developed accounting information outcomes for purposes of managerial control and governance, (LT weeks 1 to 5)
3. Using case-based materials to analyse strategic management process and outcome (LT weeks 6 to 10).The main corresponding disciplinary perspectives are management, accounting, and strategic management.

Parts 1 and 3 develop conceptual and applied empirical understanding of challenges facing public managers in their strategies and efforts to change public organizations, their processes and outcomes, for the better. We focus on a variety of aspects of this challenge, including:

  • Organizational goals and mission, programme management, delivery, and performance;
  • Organizational design, structure and culture; and
  • Planned organisational and programme change over time.

The frameworks offer knowledge and methods for explaining the outcomes of organisational activity, programme implementation, and change initiatives. In addition to explaining outcomes, these frameworks are used to develop approaches and skills whose engagement favours the design and realisation of improvements in public programmes and organisations.

The Lent Term module examines the evolution and use of systematically developed information about the behaviour of programmes and organisations for monitoring, decision-making, and governance purposes. The module explores financial management and organisational control concepts through recent developments in accounting literature and offers an introduction to methods, tools and techniques aimed at enhancing performance, managerial oversight and accountability in the public sector.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of lectures and 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week during Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Michaelmas Term: Individual presentations in seminars.

Lent Term: One formative essay and 2 class assignments.

Indicative reading

Moore, Mark H (1995) Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press);

Mintzberg, Henry, B. Ahlstrand and J. Lampel (2009), Strategy Safari: Your Complete Guide Through the Wilds of Strategic Management (2nd ed., The Free Press, New York);

Poister, Theodore H, David W Pitts, Lauren Hamilton-Edwards, (2010), Strategic management research in the Public Sector: A Review, Synthesis, and Future Directions, The American Review of Public Administration, 40(5): 522-545;

Kelman, Steven (2005) Unleashing Change: A Study of Organizational Change in Government (Brookings Institution Press: New York);

Roberts, John. (2004). The Modern Firm. (Oxford, Oxford University Press);

Shepsle, Ken. A. and Mark. S. Bonchek (1997). Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behaviour, and Institutions. (New York, W.W. Norton & Company);

Hood, Christopher. (1998). The Art of the State: Culture, Rhetoric and Public Management. Oxford, Oxford University Press;

Cross, Nigel. (2008). Engineering Design Methods, 4th ed. (Chichester: Wiley) pp1-27;

Van Aken, Joan E, Hans Berends, and Hans van der Bij, (2007). Problem solving in Organisations: A Methodological Handbook for Business Students (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) Chapter 2, 3, and 6;

Mintzberg, H. (1983). Structure in fives: Designing effective organizations. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Inc.;

Dunleavy, Patrick, Helen Margetts, Simon Bastow, and Jane Tinkler (2006), New Public Management is Dead; Long live digital-era governance’ in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16, pp 467-494;

Hopwood, A.G., "Accounting and the Pursuit of Efficiency", in A.G. Hopwood and C. Tomkins (eds.), Issues in Public Sector Accounting (Phillip Allan, 1984);

Chapman, C.S., Cooper, D.J. and Miller, P. "Linking Accounting, Organizations and Institutions", in C.S. Chapman, D.J. Cooper and P. Miller (eds.), Accounting, Organizations and Institutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009;

P.Miller, The Margins of Accounting (1998);

L. Kurunmäki, & A. Mennicken, Accounting for Failure, (2008).


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 4000 words).
Other (15%) and class participation (5%) in the MT and LT.

15% will be allocated to MT seminar presentation slide pack and LT class group assignment (listed as 'other' above).

Teachers' comment

The course survey results are cumulative scores for the past three years.  In response to student feedback, the Department of Management has made a number of changes  to the course content for the 2015/16 academic year.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2014/15: 40

Average class size 2014/15: 20

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 80.9%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)