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The public sector is going through substantial change. We first saw a desire to scale down the scale and scope of the public sector, with an emphasis on privatisation and 'downsizing'. While these processes continue around the world, more recently we also see a desire to improve the capabilities of the public sector, often described in terms of capacity building, or institutional or sectoral development. This in turn leads to significant changes to, and within, individual public sector organisations. New organisational forms have emerged. For example, public sector service organisations are no longer conceived of solely as large scale, rule bound bureaucracies. Although there are still plenty of these, alongside them we find smaller, decentralised organisations, sometimes with a short lifespan, sometimes shifted to the private sector, or at least allegedly more 'market oriented'.

At the same time, new managerial processes associated, for example, with human resource management or management information systems have been introduced. Whether managers in the public sector approve or not of the underlying factors that have brought about such change, or of the specific organisational changes introduced, nonetheless they are responsible for dealing with these changes at an organisational level. This module is about how managers understand and implement organisational change, thereby helping them to fulfil their responsibilities.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • describe and assess the relationship between an organisation and its environment, and apply these concepts to public sector organisations in general and to your own organisation in particular
  • distinguish different levels of, and approaches to, organisational change both generally and with special reference to public sector organisations
  • discuss what is meant by organisational culture, power, politics, leadership and learning, and apply them to analysing the dynamics of public sector organisations in general, and to your own organisation in particular
  • identify how issues of structure, culture, power, politics, leadership and learning can be used to understand and manage change in public sector organisations
  • apply different techniques of managing change to processes of change in your own organisation
  • handle, communicate and apply with confidence the analytical framework of organisational change management.

Study materials

Study guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight units. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Virtual Learning Environment.


Senior B & S Swailes (2016) Organisational Change. 5th Edition. Pearson.


You will receive two volumes of Readings as part of your module materials, which comprise recently published articles or seminal writings which augment and illustrate the main text.

Virtual learning environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Module overview

Unit 1 Organisations and Environments
  • 1.1 Introduction: Organisational Change
  • 1.2 Developing Country Organisations
  • 1.3 The Systems View of Organisations
  • 1.4 The Importance of the Environment
  • 1.5 Environmental Pressures for Change
  • 1.6 Summary and Conclusion
Unit 2 Organisational Change
  • 2.1 Introduction: The Nature of Change
  • 2.2 Typologies of Change in the Public Sector: Case Study
  • 2.3 Planned and Emergent Change
  • 2.4 The Standard Model of Change Management
  • 2.5 An Alternative to the Standard Model?
  • 2.6 Summary and Conclusion
Unit 3 Organisational Structure and Change
  • 3.1 Introduction: Defining Organisational Structure
  • 3.2 Forms of Organisational Structure
  • 3.3 What Shapes Structure
  • 3.4 Managing Structural Change
  • 3.5 Summary and Conclusion
Unit 4 Organisational Culture and Change
  • 4.1 Introduction: What is Organisational Culture and Why Does it Matter?
  • 4.2 Analysing Organisational Culture
  • 4.3 Sources of Organisational Culture: the Influence of National Culture
  • 4.4 Managing Organisational Culture and Change
  • 4.5 Summary and Conclusion
Unit 5 Power, Politics and Change
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Power, Politics and Conflict in Organisations
  • 5.3 Power in Organisations
  • 5.4 Conflict in Organisations
  • 5.5 Power, Politics and Conflict in Managing Organisational Change
  • 5.6 Summary and Conclusion
Unit 6 Leadership and Organisational Change
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 What is Leadership?
  • 6.3 Approaches to Leadership
  • 6.4 Leadership and Culture
  • 6.5 Leadership and Change
  • 6.6 Conclusion and Summary
Unit 7 Learning and Organisational Change
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Processes of Change in Pubic Organisations: Key Developments
  • 7.3 Organisational Learning and the Learning Organisation
  • 7.4 Learning from Other Organisations
  • 7.5 Conclusion and Summary
Unit 8 Strategies for Change
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Organisational Diagnosis
  • 8.3 Organisation Development
  • 8.4 Ethics and Organisational Change
  • 8.5 Conclusion and Summary

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.

Module sample

Click on the link below to download the module sample document in PDF.