Victoria ADMN470 Reforming Government

… one of the Specimen Courses in Implementation and Delivery

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Course description

Governments have long sought to reform public sector institutions, seeking to better design and enact public policy and improve the delivery of services to citizens and communities. This course reviews different waves, scale and kinds of public sector reforms in democratic systems. It considers whether reformers and observers have reasonable expectations and can measure the success of reform in evolving environments. Students undertake case studies of reform and should become more strategic reformers.

See Catalogue Entry and Class Schedule Listing.


Evert Lindquist (Spring 2020)

Note for students currently taking this course

The table below identifies resources on the Atlas of Public Management that could be useful in doing the assignments for ADMN 470 – Reforming Government. This page has been prepared by Ian Clark, an adjunct professor at SPA who, along with Harry Swain, is available to consult with students in this course. We have assembled additional material at:

Please feel free to email us at or

Atlas material relevant to this course

For an introduction to the Atlas of Public Management, see The Atlas as a Resource for MPA Students, December 2019.

The table below identifies the Topics most relevant to each unit of study. Two other Atlas pages of particular interest to this course are:

Week-by-week course outline and related Atlas topics
Primary Atlas Topic
Secondary Atlas Topic
1. Context and Eras of Government Reform The Study of Governance and Institutions The Study of Implementation and Delivery
2. What Drives & Limits Government Reform? Institutional Dynamics within Government The Study of Policy Analysis and Process
3. Government-Centered Reform Modernizing Government Institutions and the Policy Process
4. Citizen-Centered Reform Promoting Innovation and Driving Change Consulting and Communicating on Policy
5. Network-Enabled Reform Policy Communities and Networks Implementing through Partners and Networks
6. Digital-Driven Reform Promoting Innovation and Driving Change Modernizing Government
7. Implementing Reform Strategic Management in the Public Sector Institutional Dynamics within Government
8. Trajectories of Reform Promoting Innovation and Driving Change Ideas and the Policy Process
9. Ongoing and Overlapping Reforms in Government Institutional Dynamics within Government Promoting Learning
10. Monitoring Reform in Government Organizing and Measuring for Performance Evaluation and the Policy Cycle
11. Presentations: Case Studies in Government Reform Writing to Persuade Speaking to Persuade
12. Reflections on Reforming Government
Assignments and marking
Assignment #1: Reform Scoping Review (25% of final mark)

In the first assignment, you will begin the research needed to explore a government reform of your choice, which you will research and analyze throughout the courses. In short paragraph form and using the following questions as a guides and headings, provide the following information about your policy.

1. What is the problem, gaps or needs that your reform is seeking to address?

2. What is the necessary background, history and other facts one needs to understand why this reform is needed and the character of the problem? How well does the current policy or administrative regime serve key stakeholders? What is the quality of the evidence on this? Has there been recent precipitating events, studies, or calls for action?

3. What entities administer the policies and services your reform is seeking to improve? What is the instrument constituency? What is the prevailing ‘policy image’ which guides this regime?

4. What is the full range of entities material to the reform initiative? Are you proposing to shift how the current instrument constituency thinks about the challenge and future directions? Or are you trying to identify new instruments and/or expand or shift the network responsible for implementing the reform and instituting a new policy regime?

5. Is the reform initiative focused on adopting new digital tools and approaches, or levering them while relying on other policy or governing instruments?

You will have opportunity to continue to revise your reform ideas and diagnosis as you gather more information and we address the rest of the themes in the course.

Assignment #2: Final Reform Briefing Paper (50% of final mark)

This paper builds on and elaborates the analysis of the reform issue and initiative you submitted in the first assignment. However, the material to be added for the second assignment is more forward-looking. So, in addition to the topics identified for Assignment 1, you should address the following questions:

6. What the specific entity (or coalition) leading the reform, which will receive your note?

7. What are the strategies, budget, phases, and timeframes you propose for implementing the reform (e.g. securing authorities, building capacity, negotiating agreements, etc.)?

8. What are the barriers and likely resistance to the reform? What other pressures might be felt by the lead entities as well as the entities which are the objects of reform? Do you need to adjust the strategies and pacing of reform implementation with this in mind?

9. How to you propose to monitor progress and ensure the reform initiative is kept on track? Will new capacity need to be established for this purpose?

Your paper must have a Reference section and will likely have several annexes containing details which cannot be elaborated in the main body of the paper. Please note that your paper will not likely work by simply adding to Assignment #1: indeed, you will be learning more about your reform, changing your mind about its focus or way forward, and therefore will have to revisit and rebalance the Assignment #1 material contained so that Assignment #2 works well as an integrated paper.

Participation (25% of final mark)

Timely postings in student discussion forums (2) and a weekly reform case-study post (1) for instructor to review.

Seminar topics and readings

Unit 1 – Context and Eras of Government Reform: The Ongoing Project of Public Administration

This unit introduces the approach, assignments, and expectations ADMN470 Reforming Government. It requires you to become familiar with the CourseSpaces web site for the course and introduce yourself to fellow students. It sets the tone by indicating early on that ‘reforming government’ is not just a modern theme, but an enduring aspiration of elected leaders and various interests outside of government – we can see the current values, structures, and practice of public administration as the repository and arena of contestation of successive waves of reform. The course will unpack and revisit these themes.


Pollitt, C. and Bouckaert, G. 2017. “Recent Debates in the field”, Ch. 1, (Sections 1.4-1.10) Public Management Reform, 4th Ed., pp. 4-23.

Lindquist, E.A. 2018. The Competing Values of Public Management Reform in the Digital Era. Presented to a panel on “Public management reform models: flawed or the future?” Structure of Government Group, IPSA Meetings, Brisbane, Australia, July 24, 2018.

Wilson-Raybould, J. 2011. “BCAFN Governance Toolkit: A Guide to Nation Building”, Journal of Aboriginal Management 10 (Sept.), pp. 6-9. Available here. See full BC AFN Toolkit Part 1 here.

Philpott, J. 2018. “Indigenous Services Minister Outlines Priorities of New Department”. Video from CPAC, 23 January 2018. Access here and review first 15 minutes of the video.

Unit 2 – What Drives & Limits Government Reform?

Some observers look at government and conclude there has been too much reform, with public servants unable to keep up with and realize reforms, while advocates of change see insufficient reform, or a lack of bold reform. This unit explores what factors precipitate reform, what militates against reform even when arguably needed or overdue, and, with this in mind, its scope: is it transformative or incremental, focused or comprehensive? In this unit you also identify candidates for your major paper on a reform.


Chris Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert, “Problems and responses: a process model of public management reform”, Ch. 2 from Public Management Reform, 4th Ed., pp. 32-45.

Schon, D.A. Beyond the Stable State and the concept of ‘dynamic conservatism’

Clark, I.D., and Swain. 2005. “Distinguishing the real from the surreal in management reform: suggestions for beleaguered administrators in the government of Canada”. Canadian Public Administration 48:4, pp. 453-476, available at

Morden, M. (2016), Theorizing the resilience of the Indian Act. Can Public Admin 59: 113-133.

Unit 3 – Government-Centered Reform: Aligning Policy and Structures for Priorities

The public, various interest groups, and elected leaders of governments always seek to reform public policy and public administration. This section explores the authorities and tools that governments have for reforming policy and the management of public organizations. Much of this can be done by altering the structure, processes, and leadership inside government. This section requires you to identify which actors with authorities in the reform domain of your research paper and what the issues are.


Pollitt and Bouckaert, Public Management Reform, 4th Ed., Ch. 3 (Sections 3.1-3.6 only).

Simons, A. & Voß, J.B. (2018). The concept of instrument constituencies: accounting for dynamics and practices of knowing governance. Policy and Society 37:1, 14-35.

Christensen, T. and Lægreid, P. (2007). The Whole‐of‐Government Approach to Public Sector Reform. Public Administration Review, 67: 1059-1066.

Lindquist, E.A. 2018. “The Machinery and Organizing of Government: The DFAIT-CIDA Merger and Creating a Collaborative Culture, Ch. 5 in J. Craft and A. Clarke, eds., Issues in Canadian Governance. Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2018, pp. 69-88.

Lindquist, E.A. 2018. “The Limits to Defying Gravity: Horizontal Governance and Competing Values in Canada’s Westminster System”, Ch. 24 in C. Dunn, ed. The Handbook of Canadian Public Administration, 3rd Ed. Toronto: Oxford University, 2018, pp. 455-471.

Unit 4 – Citizen-Centered Reform: Moving Away from Government Stovepipes & Repertoires

Over the last two decades the citizen-centered reform movement has sought to encourage government leaders and public servants to better serve citizens and communities, rather than design structures and service-delivery models which only meet government priorities. This can lead to new ways to organize government and design policies and service delivery, and new lens on examining your reform initiative.


Lindquist, E.A. 2013. “Putting Citizens First – Perspectives from the ANZSOG 2011 Annual Conference”, Ch. 1 in Putting Citizens First: Engagement in Policy and Service Delivery for the 21st Century edited by S. Vincent, E. Lindquist, and J. Wanna, Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp. 1-22.

Bason, C. 2013. Engaging Citizens in Policy Innovation: Benefiting public policy from the design inputs of citizens and stakeholders as ‘experts’, Ch. 5 in Putting Citizens First, by S. Vincent, E. Lindquist, and J. Wanna, Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp. 61-73.

Vesnic-Alujevic, L. et al. 2019. The Future of Government 2030+: A Citizen-Centric Perspective on New Government Models. European Union Publications, Luxembourg, 2019. Accessible here.

Christensen, T. and Lægreid, P. (2007). The Whole‐of‐Government Approach to Public Sector Reform. Public Admin. Review, 67: 1059-1066  aligning structures for citizens/communities.

Chris Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert, Public Management Reform, 4th Ed. Review entries (p. 380) under “Citizens” and “Citizens’ Charter” in the Index.

Unit 5 – Network-Enabled Reform: Solution or Challenge to Governments?

This unit explores reforms and recently developed theories of public administration which focus on using networks of public and private organizations to deliver public services and to shape the policy frameworks in which they work, particularly important in multi-level government and multi-sector contexts. This unit considers different kinds of networks, the need for collaboration and coordination, and the new demands this puts on governments and public administrators.


Osborne, S.P. 2010. “Introduction: The (New) Public Governance: a suitable case for treatment?” (Ch. 1) and “Conclusions: Public governance and public services delivery: a research agenda for the future” (Ch. 23), in S.P. Osborne, ed. The New Public Governance? Emerging Perspectives on the theory and practice of public governance. London: Routledge, pp. 1-16 & 413-428.

Klijn, E.-H., and J. Koppenjan. 2000. “Public Management and Policy Networks: Foundations of a Network Approach to Governance.” Public Management 2 (2):135–158.

Sørensen, E., and J. Torfing. 2009. “Making Governance Networks Effective and Democratic Through Metagovernance.” Public Administration 87 (2): 234–258.

Doberstein, C. 2013. Metagovernance of urban governance networks in Canada: In pursuit of legitimacy and accountability. Canadian Public Administration 56:4, pp. 584-609.

Agranoff, R. 2006. Inside Collaborative Networks: Ten Lessons for Public Managers. Public Administration Review, Special Issue: Collaborative Public Management, v. 66, pp. 56-65.

Unit 6 – Digital-Driven Government Reform: Pervasive Possibilities, But Furthering Which Values?

Advocates inside and outside governments have been calling for rapid adoption of digital tools and new approaches for policy design, service design, and citizen engagement. Governments have adopted new platforms, digital services units, and innovation labs, but many argue that progress has been insufficient. This unit introduces you to the ubiquitous nature of technological change and invites you to consider which value clusters such tools can further and to appraise your reform initiative using these lens.


Tushman, M., & Anderson, P. (1986). Technological Discontinuities and Organizational Environments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31(3), 439-465.

Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H., Bastow, S., & Tinkler, J. (2006). New Public Management Is Dead: Long Live Digital-Era Governance. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16:3, 467-494.

Margetts, H., and Dunleavy, P. (2013). “The second wave of digital-era governance: a quasi-paradigm for government on the Web”. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society A 371: 20120382.

Clarke, A., Lindquist, E. A. and Roy, J. (2017), Understanding governance in the digital era: An agenda for public administration research in Canada. Canadian Public Admin 60: 457-464. Skim rest of issue.

Buttazzoni, M., and Lindquist, E. (2019). “The Ecology of Open Innovation in the BC Public Service: Adhocracy, Maturity, Competing Values”. Presented to the Annual Research Conference of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration, Montreal, 23-24 May 2019

Lindquist, E.A. (2018). The Competing Values of Public Management Reform in the Digital Era. Presented to the Structure of Government Group, IPSA Meetings, Brisbane, Australia, 24 July 2018.

Unit 7 – Implementing Reform: Leadership, Building Capacity, Overcoming Barriers, Embedding Change

Successfully enacting reform involves more than announcing new ways for government to operate, it requires implementing and embedding the reform so it will last. Interesting tensions arise, however, due to the scope of reform and inevitable resistance from actors benefiting or comfortable with the previous regime, and the extent to which reformers can anticipate all of the implementation challenges. In this unit you will see strategies for overcoming these challenges and apply them to your reform challenge.


From E. Lindquist, S. Vincent, and J. Wanna, eds. 2010. Delivering Policy Reforms: Anchoring Significant Reforms in Turbulent Times, ANU E Press:

Lindquist, E. A., and Wanna, J. 2010. “Delivering policy reform: making it happen, making it stick”. Ch. 1, pp. 1-12.

Patashnik, E.H. 2010. “Making reforms sustainable: lessons from the American policy reform experience’. pp. 27-40

‘t Hart, P. 2010. “Epilogue: rules for reformers”. Ch. 17, pp. 201-211.

Lindquist, E., and Wanna, J. 2015. “Is Implementation Only About Policy Execution? Advice for Public Sector Leaders from the Literature” (with J. Wanna) in Ch. 8 in New Accountabilities, New Challenges, eds. J. Wanna, E. Lindquist, and P. Marshall. Canberra: ANU E-Press, pp. 209-242.

McConnell, A. 2010. Policy Success, Policy Failure and Grey Areas In-Between”. Journal of Public Policy 30:3, pp. 345-362 (but focus on pp. 359-358).

Unit 8 – Trajectories of Reform: Execution, Adaptive Learning, or Waiting for the Wave?

Most reforms are implemented in policy subsystems which are not isolated from larger governance dynamics, and therefore insufficient political commitment and budgetary pressures. This, along with being unable to plan for all contingencies, suggests that implementing reform is not simply a matter of ‘execution’ but an ongoing process of negotiation, learning, and waiting for infusions of support. This unit suggests there can be different reform trajectories which can factor into your reform planning.


Pollitt and Bouckaert, Public Management Reform, 4th Ed., SKIM from Ch. 4 Sections 4.6 (pp. 96-106) and 4.9-4.14, (pp. 111-127), and SKIM Ch. 6 on “Politics and management”, pp. 165-185.

Lindquist, E., and Wanna, J. “Is Implementation Only About Policy Execution? Advice for Public Sector Leaders from the Literature” (with J. Wanna) in Ch. 8 in New Accountabilities, New Challenges, eds. J. Wanna, E. Lindquist, and P. Marshall. Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2015, 209-42.

Masse Jolicoeur, M. (2018). An Introduction to Punctuated Equilibrium: A Model for Understanding Stability and Dramatic Change in Public Policies. Montréal, Québec: National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy. [Refer to Flink (2017) PSJ on low org. performance & staff turnover].

Pollitt & Bouckaert, “What have been the main trajectories of reform, 1980-2016?” pp. 212-16.

Unit 9 – Ongoing and Overlapping Reforms: Sustaining, Layering, Parallel Initiatives, Reframing

This unit shifts gears, considering the vantage point of departments and agencies, which typically must deal simultaneously with and balance numerous reforms introduced by successive governments, and also how we assess the reform trajectories of different entire government systems. This raises the question of whether there can be reform overload of public service systems or particular organizations, and what strategies leaders have for navigating the plethora of reforms. This is material to the analysis of your reform cases because one must size up what other reforms organizations are digesting.


Pollitt & Bouckaert, Public Management Reform, 4th Ed. Please review Ch. 4 on “Trajectories of modernization and reform”, trewq pp. 75-127 (skim!!).

Lindquist, E. A. and White, G. (1994). Streams, springs, and stones: Ontario public service reform in the 1980s and the 1990s. Canadian Public Administration 37:3, pp. 267-301.

Charko, P. (2103). “Management improvement in the Canadian public service, 1999-2010”, Canadian Public Administration 56:1, pp. 91-20.

Clark, I.D., and Swain, H. (2005). “Distinguishing the real from the surreal in management reform: suggestions for beleaguered administrators in the government of Canada”. Canadian Public Administration 48:4, pp. 453-476.

O’Flynn, J. (2015). “Public Sector Reform: The Puzzle We Can Never Solve?” Australian Journal of Public Administration v.74:1, pp. 19-22.

Unit 10 – Monitoring Reform in Government: Expectations, Time Horizons, Measurement

If governments continuously launch reforms and public organizations are variously digesting successive reforms, how can we gauge and monitor progress? This is a challenge for elected governments and public service leaders taking stock and seeking where to focus future reform efforts, as well as for those monitoring the progress of specific reforms. You will develop a monitoring plan for your reform case.


Pollitt & Bouckaert, Public Management Reform, 4th Ed. SKIM Ch. 5 on “Results: through a glass darkly”, pp. 128-164.

Barber, M., Hihn, P., and Moffit, A. (2011). Deliverology: From Idea to implementation. McKinsey & Company, 32-39. Accessed at as a web page ( or as PDF document (see

McConnell, A. 2010. “Policy Success, Policy Failure and Grey Areas In-Between”. Journal of Public Policy 30:3, pp. 345-362 (but focus on pp. 359-358).

Lindquist, E.A. (2010). “From Rhetoric to Blueprint: The Moran Review as a Concerted, Comprehensive and Emergent Strategy for Public Service Reform”. Australian Journal of Public Administration 69:2, pp. 115–151.

Lindquist, E., Allen, B., and Eppel, “Moving Canada’s Management Accountability Framework to the Next Level: Lessons from New Zealand’s Performance Improvement Framework”, presented to the Annual CAPPA Research Conference, Montreal, 23-24 May 2019.

Victoria Univ. of Wellington, School of Government (2017). Independent Review of the Performance Improvement Framework for the New Zealand State Services Commission. Accessible here.

Units 11 – Case Studies in Government Reform: Sharing and Presentations of Draft Papers

This unit provides an opportunity for students to present their work-in-progress to colleagues in ADMN470 Reforming Government. Students will not only receive feedback on their findings and ideas for reform but also learn about many other reform initiatives and, with this broader perspective, likely see their own topics in new ways. These units provide students with an opportunity to develop presentation and PowerPoint skills, to succinctly convey findings and recommended reform strategies.

Readings to Inform Reflections and Assessments

There are no readings this week – please use the weekend to continue to revise your paper.

Units 12 – Reflections on Reforming Government: Revisiting Themes, Insights, and Suggestions

During Unit 12 you will have an opportunity to collectively reflect on key themes and insights developed in the course, and if you had any surprises or ‘aha’ moments as students. You will have an opportunity to venture your ideas about what worked and what could be improved for the roll-out of the next version of the course (along with completing your confidential, anonymous Course Experience Survey).

Readings to Inform Reflections and Assessments

Review the overviews for each unit in the ADMN 470 Reforming Government course outline.


By permission of the instructor.

Syllabus link on Atlas

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 9 January 2020.