Successfully Executing Ambitious Strategies in Government: An Empirical Analysis

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Successfully Executing Ambitious Strategies in Government: An Empirical Analysis

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Title: Successfully Executing Ambitious Strategies in Government: An Empirical Analysis
Author: Kelman, Steven J.; Myers, Jeff

Note: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.

Citation: Kelman, Steven, and Jeff Myers. 2009. Successfully Executing Ambitious Strategies in Government: An Empirical Analysis. HKS Faculty Research Working Papers RWP09-009, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
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Abstract: How are senior government executives who attempt to execute an ambitious vision requiring significant strategic change in their organizations able to succeed? How do they go about formulating a strategy in the first place? What managerial and leadership techniques do they use to execute their strategy? In this paper, these questions are examined by comparing (so as to avoid the pitfalls of “best practices” research) management and leadership behaviors of a group of agency leaders from the Clinton and Bush administrations identified by independent experts as having been successful at executing an ambitious strategy with a control group consisting of those the experts identified as having tried but failed at significant strategic change, along with counterparts to the successes, who had the same position as they in a different administration. We find a number of differentiators (such as using strategic planning, monitoring performance metrics, reorganizing, and having a smaller number of goals), while other techniques either were not commonly used or failed to differentiate (such as establishing accountability systems or appeals to public service motivation). We find that agencies that the successes led had significantly lower percentages of political appointees than the average agency in the government. One important finding is that failures seem to have used techniques recommended specifically for managing transformation or change as frequently as successes did, so use of such techniques does not differentiate successes from failures. However, failures (and counterparts) used techniques associated with improving general organizational performance less than successes.
Published Version: http://web.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=6563
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:4481609
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