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Unleashing Change

Unleashing Change is a hopeful account of the potential for organizational change and improvement within government. Despite the mantra that “people resist change,” it is possible to effect meaningful reform in a large bureaucracy. In Unleashing Change, public management expert Steven Kelman presents a blueprint for accomplishing such improvements, based on his experience orchestrating procurement reform in the 1990s.

Kelman focuses on making change happen on the front lines, not just getting it announced by senior policymakers. He argues that frequently there will be a constituency for change within government organizations. The role for leaders is not to force change on the unwilling but to unleash the willing, and to persist long enough for the change to become institutionalized.

             Drawing on the author’s own personal experience and extensive research among frontline civil servants, as well as literature in organization theory and psychology, Unleashing Change presents an approach for improving agency performance from soup to nuts—mixing theory with practice. Its analysis is innovative and empirically rich. Kelman’s conclusions challenge conventional notions about achieving reform in large organizations and mark a major advance in theories of organizational change. His lessons will be of interest not only to scholars interested in improving the performance of the public sector, but for anyone struggling to manage a large organization.


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Praise for Unleashing Change

 “Steve Kelman’s creative research, augmented by his own considerable experience as a reform-minded federal official, gives this book unusual depth and authenticity.”

--Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School and author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End

“Steve Kelman’s Unleashing Change is empirical social science at its best and administrative science at its finest. An analytic tour de force, it is also surprisingly personal and engaging. Kelman not only lays out a potent and thoughtful conceptual framework, but also relates the compelling tale of an academic actually using that framework to great effect. A ‘must’ read.”

--Roderick M. Kramer, William R. Kimball Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business  

“Steve Kelman offers a unique and crucial perspective on this very important instance of the worldwide movement toward ‘debureaucratizing’ government. He brings to the study of organizational change the insightful, informative mix of an experienced executive's observations and a social scientist's analysis of rich survey evidence. Everyone concerned with good government needs to get this book.”

--Hal G. Rainey, Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, The University of Georgia