The ways in which new public management ideas impact upon the administrative culture of 'street-level' bureaucrats and professionals working within Irish social policy
Connelly, Julie Margaret
University College Cork
The conventional meaning of culture is ‘widely shared and strongly held values’ of a particular group or society (Bradley and Parker, 2006: 89). Culture is not a rigid concept; it can be influenced or altered by new ideas or forces. This research examines the ways in which one set of ideas in particular, that is, those associated with New Public Management, have impacted upon the administrative culture of 'street-level' bureaucrats and professionals within Irish social policy. Lipsky (1980: 3) defined 'street-level' bureaucrats as ‘public service workers who interact directly with citizens in the course of their jobs, and who have substantial discretion in the execution of their work’. Utilising the Competing Values Framework (CVF) in the analysis of eighty three semi-structured interviews with 'street-level' bureaucrats and professionals, an evaluation is made as to the impact of NPM ideas on both visible and invisible aspects of administrative culture. Overall, the influence of NPM is confined to superficial aspects of administrative culture such as; increased flexibility in working hours and to some degree job contracts; increased time commitment; and a customer service focus. However, the extent of these changes varies depending on policy sector and occupational group. Aspects of consensual and hierarchical cultures remain firmly in place. These coincide with features of developmental and market cultures. Contrary to the view that members of hierarchical and consensual culture would pose resistance to change, this research clearly illustrates that a very large appetite for change exists in the attitudes of 'street-level' bureaucrats and professionals within Irish social policy, with many of them suggesting changes that correspond to NPM ideas. This study demonstrates the relevance of employing the CVF model as it is clear that administrative culture is very much a dynamic system of competing and co-existing cultures.
New public management , Public sector reform , Street level bureaucracy , Administrative culture , Irish public sector
Connelly, J. 2013. The ways in which new public management ideas impact upon the administrative culture of 'street-level' bureaucrats and professionals working within Irish social policy. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.