How departments change: Windows of opportunity and critical junctures in three departments

David Richards*, Martin J. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the difficulty of large-scale organisational change, it is clear that the last 18 years of Conservative government has seen some major changes in both the structures and cultures of government department. This paper examines why and how departments change when they do. Although ministers frequently have explicit intentions to change the cultures of departments, the often fail. The paper suggests that major, cultural reorientations of departments occur at moments when external and internal pressure combine to create "windows of opportunity". Such circumstances enable ministers, with strategic intentions, to impose a new direction on the department. Therefore, their departure from office does not signal the restoration of the old departmental line. This process we call a critical juncture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-79
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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