Working Papers

Organizational Structural Changes In Danish Local Government


Since 1990, profound structural changes in the organization of local government have taken place in Denmark: Changes in the political structure (with the consolidation of political committees), in the administration (with the consolidation of departments and internal decentralization), and at the level of institutions (with decentralization from the administrative unit to the institutions). At the center of the changes are despecialization and decentralization. The longterm goal is to improve service, increase efficiency, share responsability, create a more holistic orientation, as well as to increase the public’s influence. A research project has been started to document effects of these changes and to find explanations for them. The research project is still in progress, but initial results show that effects of the structural changes can already be seen in some instances and that it is possible to discern patterns in the relationship between specific structural changes and the changed attitude of local government. However, the research also shows that the goals have not yet been completely reached. One explanation for this may be that different cultures, norms, and values are slowing down the implementation of the changes. To reach the stated goal, it appears necessary to change the perspective of the actors in the organization (i.e., the employees). In Denmark, most of the employees in local government are “professionals,” as the term is defined by social science. One way of dealing with cultures, norms, and values is to view professions as the creator of these cultures. Norms and values of professionals are mostly formed outside the organization, but expressed through structures and cultures within the organization. This provides an opportunity to combine structural and cultural approaches to the analysis of organizational development. One of our main theses in the project is that changes in the organization of local government require changes in the professionals’ way of thinking and acting. The discussion of the relationship between professions and organizational development will be used to improve the models for change in the reorganization of Danish local government.