Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explain how and why the initially ambitious reform of the Dutch water sector turned into a moderate pace of change. The explanations are based on institutional theory.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper is a case study at the organizational field level of the Dutch water sector.
Findings – In order to enhance efﬁciency and transparency, Dutch Central Government initially attempted to enforce top-down radical changes, including the formation of integrated water chain companies. However, after discussions and reactions of the interested parties, the central government authorised a bottom-up approach, giving discretional powers to the individual water organizations. This transition to a bottom-up approach can mainly be explained by the limited pressure exerted by the central government to change and the powerful position of the relevant organizations within the water sector, as well as their ability to establish strong coalitions to avoid mandatory radical changes.
Research limitations/implications – The theoretical background is useful in analysing thechange processes in other public sectors.
Practical implications – The Dutch way of consensus seeking might be threatened by its own inertia, and in the case of ineffectiveness, it could be replaced by a more top-down and radical reformpackage.
Originality/value – Unravelling public sector reform into goals, means and approaches is useful, because although goals can remain the same during the change process, the means and approachesmay be altered. Resistance to radical changes might stimulate convergent change options, such as reinforcement of the existing means of reform and may also decrease the embededdness and impermeability of the institutional fields.
- Ekonomi och näringsliv (502)