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Business Process Reengineering; or how to enable bottom-up participation in a top down reform programme Paper presented to the annual meeting of the European Group of Public Administration Studygroup on Public Personnel Policies: "Staff participation and involvement in European public services" Oeiras, 3-6 September 2003 Myriam PARYS Nick THIJS Instituut voor de Overheid Department of Political Science K.U. Leuven E. Van Evenstraat 2 A 3000 Leuven Phone: 016/32.32.70 Fax: 016/32.32.67 E-mail: [email protected] [email protected] 1
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I. Introduction In 2001 the European Group of Public Administration launched the theme “Staff participation and involvement in European public services”. On last year’s congress, in Potsdam, Myriam Parys presented a paper titled “Staff participation and involvement in the public sector reform of the Belgian federal government: the case of the Artemis-enquiry” 1 . The Artemis-enquiry, launched by the Minister of Civil Service and Modernisation of the Public Services, was intented to measure civil servants' attitudes towards the reform in the Belgian federal administration (called the Copernic reform) and stirring employee commitment. Research showed that the amount of influence employees could exert through the Artemis enquiry can be considered to be rather small. In general it can be said that the degree to which employees are allowed to participate depends on the phase of the reform. Employees can participate less frequent in the conception- and the development-phase of a reform than in the implementation-phase (Kanter, 1983; Cressey & Williams, 1990 in: de Leede & Looise, 1994). Participation of employees is low in phases where a lot of the decisions still have to be taken, while further on in the process possibilities to participate increase, although by then most of the important decisions have already been taken. Cressey & Williams (1990) defined this as the "participation paradox". The same can be said of the Copernic reform. As shown, the conception of the Copernic reform has been the work of an elite. We demonstrated that the first two phases of a reform; the conception and the development phase, showed no real forms of employee participation. The team of consultants in charge of supervising the reform pointed out that the last phase of the reform, the implementation phase, would offer possibilities to participate in the reform. Especially the Business Process Reengineering projects that were launched from September 2001 onwards in the different Federal Government Departments (FGD’s) would make up a good example of employee participation in later phases of the reform process (Eekman, 21/8/2002). In this year’s paper this thesis will be held against the light. The article presents the Business Process Reengineerings in the Belgian federal administration as a case-study. The study analyses in what way the BPR’s could be considered as ways of allowing employees to participate in the federal administration’s reforms.
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