Local government authority strategizing
: a middle management perspective

  • Martin Whitehill

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    For the past four decades, researchers have been discussing and arguing over the implementation of strategy within the public sector. There is an emerging literature on pluralism, and the interdependence of strategizing and organizing which is especially relevant to public service organizations. The research undertaken and reported in this thesis set out to identify how strategizing was implemented within one large local government authority, from the perspective of middle management. The study sought to ascertain which, if any, of the many implementation theories were applied in practice, and the implications of the tensions between strategizing and organizing. Methodologically, there is a recognised paucity of participatory action learning and research in the strategizing field. Equally, gaps were found in the extant literature on strategizing from the middle management perspective. This research addressed both of these research gaps. The case study herein reported used participatory action research methods. Participatory action research teams followed an action research framework of six questions to identify the gaps between espoused theory and theory in practice. The findings were that the local government authority was not designed for the external strategizing pluralism or the internal organizing pluralism. The organization was designed for regulation and control and so not best suited for the delivery of other types of service. The strategizing process lacked the specific policy input from the various marginalised communities who required the services most. It also specifically avoided any input from the front-line professional staff that held the relevant knowledge, experience and skills. The pluralistic nature of the society served and the lack of commitment on the frontline led to another phenomenon – street-level bureaucrats and the politicization of the community. These frontline service deliverers, ‘street-level bureaucrats’, not only interpreted the strategy to fit the specific, unique context of each neighbourhood but also educated the citizens to appreciate their own power through their politicization. The staff also restated their plans to fit the format of the current top-down strategy by rephrasing them using the current political language of the day.
    Date of Award27 Sept 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Sheehan (Supervisor)


    • Public administration
    • Strategic planning

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