Management, structuur en cultuur : over het gebruik van organisatietheorieën in Breda

J. Polling

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


This book deals with organizational change in two different ways. One way is the historical description of several attempts to implement organizational change in one particular organization. That organization is the local civil service of Breda, a city in the southern part of the Netherlands with a history that goes back to the thirteenth century. This book covers the period of about thirty years from 1965 until 1996. In this period Breda had between 120.000 and 130.000 inhabitants and the civil service varied between 1200 and 1800 employees. The historical description focuses not only on the changes as such but also on the situation that existed when the attempts to change were undertaken (the environmental conditions). Main goal in this part of the study is to create a basis for an answer to the question: What factors or conditions were decisive for the claimed success of the changes that took place in 1992, where similar attempts at earlier dates seemed to have failed?

The other way to treat organizational change in this study is induced by the question: Which organization theory or theories were used in the reorganizations described in the historical part? In order to obtain an answer to this question it was necessary to go into the character of organizations theory - which is thought to be a body of knowledge - and into the relevancy of organizations theory for practical use - which is thought to be small. A theoretical model for research is proposed in part 2. This model is based upon three major assumptions.

guidelines and directions derived from organizations theory are insufficient to support organizational change in practice. This causes "changers" (those who initiate the desired change) to develop their own, "private" organization theory. An important part of this study is concerned with the reconstruction of those private theories.the private theories of changers are expressed one way or another in the documents used to realise the desired organizational change. In the addendum to this study quotes from the documents used are translated into "central concepts" of the changers. These central concepts are considered to be the framework of the private organization theories.organizational change is realised on one or more of three organizational dimensions: management, structure and culture. These dimensions are influenced strongly by environmental factors. Technologic possibilities available, the actual economic situation, prevailing social values and political and governmental conditions are considered to be the most important environmental conditions.

The last section of part 2 (chapter 6) gives a short analysis of the specific character of Dutch local government and public service. In the local civil service the position of the town clerk in most cities has evolved to that of city manager in the period considered.

The historical account in part 3 is subdivided into 5 chapters, the first being a short and global sketch of the history of the Netherlands since World War II in order to give a general background for the developments in Breda. Each of the other four give a description of one of the successive attempts to reorganize the civil service of Breda. In these chapters attention is also given to several problems of local policy that filled, for the most part, the political agenda.

In part 4, the model developed in part 2 is applied on documents used to realise the desired changes described in part 3. The private theories for each period are reconstructed and compared to the general organization theory existing at the time. An important aspect of this analysis is that private and general organization theory and the desired and realised organization are described in terms of the three dimensions (management, structure and culture) of the proposed referential model in part 2. Each chapter of part 4 closes with a summary of conclusions with respect to that period.

General conclusions derived from the whole study and a few suggestions for further research are gathered in part 5. The most important conclusions can be presented in the following statements.

Writers on organizations agree to a large extent on the fact that environmental conditions have a bearing on the structure and functioning of organizations. Many of them even agree on the fact that organizations theories are influenced by the economic and social forces of their time. Nevertheless proposed organization theories hardly ever try to specify the situation in which they are developed.An explanation for this lack of attention may be found in the emphasis on comparative analysis of organizational research. In comparing organizations in a specific historical period, technological economic, social and political conditions can be viewed as the same for all organizations at the time. In that case those environmental conditions have no bearing on the results of the research and need not be made explicit.Organizational change can be considered as change on the three dimensions: management, structure and culture. In the case observed in this study the same set of rather simple rules was used for creating change in each of the four successive periods on the dimensions management: (replace sitting managers) and structure (enhance line-staff relations, put together what belongs together; though criteria to do this differ from period to period; and decrease span of control).The most important motive to introduce large scale changes in the case observed, therefore, seems to be the need to change organizational culture. In the case considered, the organization started with a power oriented culture. The first attempt on change tried to implement a role oriented culture but failed for the most part as a result of the existing power structure.

The second attempt was accompanied by the wave of democratization of the late sixties and early seventies which undermined the power structure in the organization. The rather low pressure on reinforcing role relations, except for those belonging to project management, caused a major shift towards a task culture in which hardly anybody seemed to have authority. In this situation project management played a major role.

In the third attempt, under pressure of the economic recession, legitimate authority, the political power of mayor and aldermen, reinforced a strong role culture. As a result of this change the existing structural elements of project management were practically eliminated. The position of the chief executive level (the town clerk) was weak.

In the fourth attempt power shifted from the political to the chief executive level. This shift was enabled by the weak political position of mayor and aldermen and the authority bestowed on the town clerk.

Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • van Dalen, J.C., Promotor, External person
Award date22 Sep 1999
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058080967
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • government organizations
  • organizational development
  • organizations
  • theory
  • change
  • management
  • public authorities
  • local government
  • history
  • netherlands
  • noord-brabant
  • organization

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