Public sector reform in Western Australia: the role of chief executive officers in leading cultural change in their organisations.
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The last two decades of the twentieth century saw unprecedented change in the Western Australian public sector. Legislative reform, royal commissions and new policies aimed at enhancing public sector accountability, transparency and efficiency have served to highlight the critical role of CEOs in delivering change. Underpinning sustainable organisational change is cultural change, which in-turn is most effectively driven by a transformational leadership style. There has been little research into CEOs' perceptions of their role in leading cultural change in their organisations. This thesis details an exploratory study of WA public sector CEOs. It discovered that CEOs identified with elements characterising the theoretical construct of a transformational leader. They perceived cultural change as the realignment of organisational values and behaviour with mission, government and community expectations, efficiency and effectiveness. CEOs actively deployed a number of strategies to bring about cultural change but were uncertain about the extent which substantive cultural change was taking place within the public sector. Factors they saw as impacting on their capacity to lead such change included the Government's policy agenda, management theory and potentially, peer support. CEOs who participated in the study were predominantly career public servants, male, over the age of fifty, had worked exclusively in the public sector and only led a small number of organisations. They had mixed views about the impact of such demographics on a CEO's capacity to effectively lead cultural change citing situational factors and personal attributes as being significant variables. There were a number of clear findings from the study that have significant, practical implications for the public sector. CEOs would benefit from a government that communicated a stronger sense of vision about the future directions of the sector. CEOs require structured opportunities to enhance their competencies in the leadership of change and incentives to commit to change agendas that may extend well beyond the tenure of their employment contacts. Finally, CEOs cannot effectively transform organisational culture without support from other leaders and strategic plans that take account of emerging demographic shifts in the workforce that will inevitably impact on staff values, behaviours and expectations.
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