Offentlige administrative fællesskabers legitimitet: Håndtering af legitimitetsudfordringer

Anne Heckscher Niebuhr & Annette Heckscher

Student thesis: Master executive thesis


Most managers have experienced that the implementation of major organizational change is difficult and requires leadership to achieve support. Being managers in the public sector we have both experienced and been responsible for such changes – merging organizations, centralizing major tasks and establishing shared service centers. Especially establishing shared service centers has caught our attention since it seems hard to gain external support for these organizations. These observations lead us to the main question of this thesis: What challenges concerning legitimacy appear establishing shared service centers, and how do the decision makers handle these challenges? The legitimacy challenges appear when the stakeholders do not appreciate the decision of the shared service center and find the implementation of it justified. Our theoretic approach is on managing organizational legitimacy and draws primarily on works by DiMaggio and Powell, Mark C. Suchman, Jacob Torfing and Agneta Karlsson. We examine four public shared service centers – from the idea was born over the analysis- and decision phases to the implementation of the centers. The shared service centers are the Copenhagen Municipality “KoncernService”, the two centers in the Danish government administration; “Statens Administration” and “Statens It” and the independent public authority “Udbetaling Danmark”. We have studied the actions and attitudes of the decision makers by examining a large number of documents and by doing qualitative interviews with high level informants of each shared service center. We have focused on revealing and understanding the legitimacy challenges and the legitimization strategies that were performed. The analyses were done case by case and by comparing the findings and tendencies of the four cases. The analyses have shown that establishing the four shared service centers were all challenged at their legitimacy. The most important challenges were:  Lack of input legitimacy and pragmatic legitimacy. All customer organizations – the stakeholders - were at some point involved in the process leading to establishing the shared service centers but there was no real or only little influence on the actual decision. The stakeholders had only little influence on the governance of the shared service centers and the financial gains are still to be seen in the two shared service centers of the Danish government administration.  Lack of output legitimacy. Most of the shared service centers had severe problems producing the immediate output that was expected on quality, gains etc. The decision makers have used different strategies in order to handle the legitimacy challenges. The most important legitimation strategies were: Mimetic and coercive isomorphism. The idea was imported from successful other organizations and the implementation could be enforced, if needed.  Gaining and maintaining legitimacy o “Buying” legitimacy by giving influence on the shared service center and concrete financial gains o Defining an irresistible goal addressing political decision makers o Communicating by promoting the shared service center to be the right solution to achieve the goal and thereby convince the stakeholders o Monitoring quality in order to conform to demands o Restructuring in order to repair legitimacy. In these ways the initiating decision makers have tried to gain and maintain support of the decision and the implementation of the shared service centers. The four centers still exist – and the legitimacy is still challenged. Our thesis finally leads to assumptions on how leaders and decision makers, who want to establish shared service centers or likewise centralized tasks, could address the legitimacy challenges

EducationsMaster of Public Governance, (Executive Master Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages98