COVID-19 and the Flexibility of the Bureaucratic Ethos

Kirstine Zinck Pedersen*, Paul du Gay

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportBidrag til bog/antologiForskningpeer review


Bureaucracy is commonly associated with a lack of the responsiveness, flexibility and innovative capability deemed necessary for an organization to change rapidly when circumstances dictate. However, with the COVID-19 crisis, evidence is emerging that large professional bureaucracies, such as hospitals, have been able to change their organization, retrain their staff, establish new physical facilities, and introduce new guidelines, technologies and safety procedures with astonishing speed. While what has been termed ‘the customary view’ within the field of management and organization studies continues to claim that flexibility is a product of de-bureaucratization, we seek to investigate an alternative proposition: that within the Danish Healthcare system, rapid and flexible responses during the COVID-19 crisis were linked to classic bureaucratic features such as clear lines of command, explicit hierarchies, formalization, authority based on expertise and office-holding, and a focus on the duties, purposes and ethics of office (that engender a sense of ‘vocation’) as the driving force in making the reorganizations happen.
TitelOrganising Care in a Time of Covid-19 : Implications for Leadership, Governance and Policy
RedaktørerJustin Waring, Jean-Louis Denis, Anne Reff Pedersen, Tim Tenbensel
Antal sider22
ForlagPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Trykt)9783030826956, 9783030826987
ISBN (Elektronisk)9783030826963
StatusUdgivet - 2021
NavnOrganizational Behaviour in Healthcare


  • Professional bureaucrazy
  • Emergency response management
  • Formalization
  • COVID-19
  • Denmark
  • Hospital organization