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Lecture | Seminar

FGGA Research Seminar: Does Private Sector Experience Matter for Public Managers?

  • Steven van de Walle, KU Leuven
Wednesday 2 May 2018
FGGA Research Seminars
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague

Central government administrations in European countries have been though major changes in recent decades. Public administration reforms, and not at least NPM-inspired ones, have propagated the use of private sector management skills in the public sector. The private sector management model was seen as superior and therefore to be imported. This has not only resulted in the transfer of management tools and practices, but also in an increased openness to managers with a private sector background.

Reform thinking centered on the idea of managerialism, or the idea that better management is the solution for making public organizations perform better and for solving social problems. Under managerialism, “Private experience is, for the most part, depicted as the fount of most practical management wisdom” (Painter, 2011: 237). Hence, bringing in managers with private experience is seen as desirable because of the more advanced knowledge of management tools and skills they were supposed to possess. Especially in executive agencies, private sector experience has become more common (Van Thiel et al., 2007). Sector switchers are said to have a ´sector imprinting´ (Boardman et al., 2010; Chen, 2012): they hold certain norms, attitudes, skills and behaviors that they take with them when moving to another sector. This may make them valuable in the new position. Despite the attention in political rhetoric for the added value of private experience and abundant biographic story telling about the experiences of private top managers who have switched to public sector roles, broad empirical evidence remains limited and speculation is more prominent than evidence  (Rainey and Bozeman, 2000; Bozeman and Ponomariov, 2009).

This paper looks at whether having private sector experience makes public managers different in terms of management instrument use and entrepreneurial attitudes. It uses data from the COCOPS Top Public Executive Survey, a survey among the entire population of central government top managers in 19 European countries.


 Registration is not neccessary, and after the seminar, refreshments will be served.

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