Unpacking Nordic Administrative Reforms: Agile and Adaptive Governments

Carsten Greve, Niels Ejersbo, Per Lægreid*, Lise H. Rykkja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article examines current reform experiences in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, focusing on the assumed Nordic administrative model. The research questions is: How do Nordic public sector executives perceive reform processes, trends, contents and management instruments? To answer these questions we apply a theory of gradual institutional change. The database is a survey of top civil servants in ministries and central agencies in 19 European countries conducted in 2012–2015 within the COCOPS project funded by the EC 7th Framework Program. We show that the Nordic countries are pragmatic and motivated reformers. There is a high level of reform activity and public involvement. The reforms aim to improve services more than cut costs. The Nordic model emerges as one that is agile and adaptive. New reform elements have been incorporated into the existing welfare state model, which accounts for differences between the five countries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Public Administration
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)697-710
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Administrative reform
  • Nordic countries
  • Management reforms
  • Agile reforms
  • Adaptive governments

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