Challenges and Barriers in Planning and Implementing Public Sector Reforms: A New Institutionalism Framework

The international experience in the area of public sector reforms raises several broad questions that also reflect on our understanding of policy practice. A major question concerns the pace and timing of reforms. Are public sector reforms radical, one-time changes or gradual and incremental? Regardless of the current situation, we must determine which is the preferred approach (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004, 2009; Streek and Thelen 2005). These questions also concern the depth and impact of learning, and the diffusion of ideas in the reform process. Another theoretical dilemma is the role of institutions and individual players in reform processes as well as the interaction between them (Moynihan et al. 2011). The literature offers contradictory depictions and recommendations that must be synthesized. Broadly speaking, the dispute revolves around whether structural factors and institutions explain policy outcomes better than individual entrepreneurship and leadership do (Weingast 2005). An important factor in this debate concerns the role of culture and national characteristics in explaining such dynamics. In addition, are there categorical differences between the dynamics of institutional change in developed countries as compared to developing countries?

In order to address these questions in general and regarding performance management reforms in particular, we present the core components of the new institutionalism framework and the analysis ofinstitutional change that arises from the use of this framework.

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