Institutt for politikk og forvaltning
Ph.d. profil

Ph.d.-profil: Chris Hagen Magnussen

In line with an increasingly prominent focus in society at large, reforms of the public sector have also increasingly become the subject of academic attention and research.


Leaders will therefore have direct and indirect influence, but within institutional frameworks which in turn enable and limit action in accordance with the desired, appropriate behavior.

Political science studies of public reforms have, among other things, focused on conditions for reform (Christensen & Lægreid, 2003; Trein, Magetti & Meyer, 2020), seen reforms in the context of innovation in the public sector (Matland, 1995; Greve, Lægreid & Rykkja, 2016 ; Torfing, 2019) or understood reforms in the light of international trends and waves of ideas (Kettl, 2005; Christensen & Lægreid, 2011; Hammerschmid et al., 2019). The importance of public leaders during reform implementation processes is implicitly assessed as important, but despite a rich political science and organizational theory literature on both reforms and leaders in the public sector as such, their specific role as change agents and initiators in reform processes is still less researched (Higgs, Kuipers & Steijn, 2022).

The purpose of this PhD project is to explore this, and the main theme will thus be public leadership during public sector reforms. This is examined through a case study of the 2015 Norwegian Police Reform. This PhD thesis will furthermore be article-based. The first article will focus on leader team composition and internal/external collaboration, where it is investigated to what extent and in what way the reform outcome can be attributed to the background characteristics of the leaders. The second article deals with the leaders' values and its possible influence on their followers in a reform context, while the third and last article examines the connection between employee involvement and perceived reform success. The extent to which leaders give employees access to the decision-making arena will be of particular importance.

Given the themes of this PhD project, the theoretical intakes will be partly diverse. We can nevertheless distinguish mainly between actor-oriented theories and a more overarching institutional theory. The former can be seen in connection with Lipsky and his arguments that "policy implementation in the end comes down to the people who actually implement it" (Lipsky, 1980, p. 8). Leader behaviour is furthermore seen through perspectives of change management, where the behaviour of public leaders in the face of reforms is essential (Fernandez & Rainey, 2006). A central argument given such an understanding is how reforms' opportunities for success are not only conditioned by their content, but just as much by the implementation process itself (Van der Voet, Kuipers & Groeneveld, 2017, p. 94; Higgs, Kuipers & Steijn, 2022).

Leaders' room for action is given an institutional understanding not solely conditioned by their preferences and background characteristics. It will also be conditional on the values and norms that exists in the organization (Christensen et al., 2015). Through a logic of appropriateness (March & Olsen, 1989), cultural norms that connect situations and identities will also indicate what is the expected appropriate (organizational) behaviour. Leaders will therefore have direct and indirect influence, but within institutional frameworks which in turn enable and limit action in accordance with the desired, appropriate behaviour.

This study will have a mixed methods approach, using both quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data. The quantitative data is based on data from a zero-point measurement of police employees and leaders' assessment of the work situation in 2016 and expectations for the then imminent reform of the Norwegian police (Renå, 2016), together with a follow-up survey of the same carried out in December 2021 (Magnussen & Rubecksen, 2022). As the respondents in the follow-up survey all also participated in the zero-point measurement in 2016, this does not just represent two data sets that show two specific snapshots in time, it also gives us a picture of the development over time in the form of panel data. The qualitative data will here provide in-depth knowledge, in contrast to the survey data's broad information. It is desirable to interview around 50 respondents, distributed at the national and regional level, and at the strategic, administrative and operational management level in the police.