PP4G3      Half Unit
Designing and Managing Change in the Public Sector

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Simon Bastow


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (CEMS MiM), Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MBA Exchange, MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines important challenges for governments and public sector organisations in being able to design and manage transformative change in public services.  Two key aspects of change are considered:

- the instrumental capacity of government to design and implement policy and programme change in coherent, sustainable and successful ways, and

- the adaptive capacity of government to respond to change in their external environment, and avoid problems of obsolescence, misalignment or 'out-of-touch' policies

We look at this dual challenge across developed and developing country contexts, and across core areas of government policy and public services.  The course is primarily about government and public sector, rather than private or third sector, however an important element is looking at the capacity of governments to coordinate with these other sectors in designing and managing transformative change.

From the outset we discuss how governments can develop coherent responses to so-called 'wicked' public policy and management (PPM) problems.  These tend to be complex, multi-faceted and intractable problems, ones that require well-designed and complementary measures.  We look at the interplay of different governance factors such as the impact of politics, bureaucracy, culture, incentives and motivations, administrative capacity, amongst others, and explore the potential for and limitations on transformative change.  The course works through key aspects of holistic change: including strategy, culture, motivation and coordination, leadership, social-technical systems, resilience, and policy and organizational learning.

The course aims to provide students with key concepts and approaches to designing coherent action in response to complex public policy problems.  We look at these challenges primarily from the perspective of the senior government or public sector official, working at the interface of high politics, policy making, and operational delivery.  The course will be useful for students who are interested in working in government, or for those who work in other 'social impact' roles that involve working closely with government and public authorities.

The syllabus draws on concepts from public policy, political science, institutional economics, and organizational and system design, and organizational behaviour.  We cover a wide range of sectors and policy areas, particularly core areas of public sector services such as criminal justice, health, welfare, education and defence.  The course emphasises dialogue between concepts and cases, and aims for strong applied and practical relevance.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week during Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will receive feedback on group presentations in seminars in the MT.

Students will have the option to submit a formative essay by the end of the MT.

Indicative reading

Students will be directed to key texts throughout the term.  Course literature draws from public policy and governance, management economics, public management and administration and organizational psychology amongst other disciplines. Some indicative readings throughout the course include:

  • J van Aken (2007) 'Design Science and Organization Interventions: Aligning Business and Humanistic Values', Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 43(1): 67-68
  • H. Simon (1996), Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)
  • J. Roberts (2004), The Modern Firm (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
  • H. Mintzberg (1994), The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning, Harvard Business Review, 72(1), Jan-Feb 1994 pp107-114
  • P. Dunleavy, H. Margetts, S. Bastow and J. Tinkler (2006) New Public Management is Dead: Long live digital-era governance, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16, pp467-494
  • Hood, Christopher (1998), The Art of the State: Culture, Rhetoric and Public Management (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
  • Schein, Edgar H. (2010), Organizational culture and leadership (San Francisco, John Wiley & Sons Inc.)
  • Brehm, J. and S. Gates (1999), Working, Shirking and Sabotage: Bureaucratic Response to a Democratic Public (Michigan, The University of Michigan Press)
  • Heath, C. and N. Staudenmayer (2000), Coordination Neglect: How Lay Theories of Organizing Complicate Coordination in Organizations, Research in Organizational Behaviour 22: 155-193
  • Hood, C. and Margetts, H. (2007), The Tools of Government in the Digital Age (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan)
  • G. Morgan (2006), Images of Organization (Sage)
  • Weick, Karl. E. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations (London, Sage)


Essay (40%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Presentation (20%) and case analysis (40%) in the MT.

  • An essay of 3,000 words in response to one of the set essay questions or a question agreed with Dr Bastow – to be submitted by Week 3 in the Lent Term (40%).
  • Group presentations in seminars throughout the MT (20%).
  • Case analysis of 3,000 words by week 11 in the MT (40%).

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2018/19: 40

Average class size 2018/19: 16

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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