Why Style Matters: A Comparison of Two Administrative Reform Initiatives in the Israeli Public Sector, 1989-1998

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Abstract

How does an administrative reform develop its own unique style, and how important is this style in determining the reform's legacy? This article argues that sometimes the manner in which an administrative reform is implemented is as important as the reform's initial goals or official agenda. To illustrate the argument, the article compares two reform initiatives in the Israeli public sector that took place during the 1990s. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) adopted an open-book, negotiated, and participatory reform style by implementing incremental reform steps in the hope that these steps would snowball into a self-sustaining and irreversible bureaucratic culture change (1994-1996). In contrast, the Israeli Ministry of Finance (MoF) adopted a secretive, top-down, and centralized reform style when it sought to change the production of public information systems (1989-1998). MoF reformers accomplished many concrete short-term changes but also created an environment dominated by suspicion that foiled their later reform efforts. CSC's reformers achieved far fewer concrete results, but they generated more willingness to cooperate with future reforms. At the end of the day, the article proposes, the style of a reform is closely related to the degree of willingness of bureaucrats to cooperate with future reforms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)217-240
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

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