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Chief Executive Succession and the Performance of Central Government Agencies

1 October 2010 - 30 September 2013

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Oliver James

Research partners: Professor G Boyne and Dr Nicolai Petrovsky (Cardiff University)

Sponsor(s): Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

About the research

Chief executives are an important group of officials in many government systems. In Britain, they manage and account for a large part of central government operations, from services for job seekers to border control and criminal justice functions.

Research on the private sector suggests that new chief executives tend to bring about performance improvements but that these effects are contingent on several factors, notably prior performance of the organisation and the background of the new chief executive.

There has been considerable effort in bringing in new 'outsider' chief executives from non-traditional backgrounds into central government, including from other parts of the public sector and from the private sector.  However, there is, as yet, no clear theory or systematic analysis of the effect of different types of chief executive succession in central government.

The research project will build a quantitative data base of chief executive successions and performance outcomes for central government executive agencies. Multivariate statistical methods will be used to evaluate the theories, especially of insider and outsider succession. Agencies with different types of succession event will be examined to help trace out the mechanisms behind succession effects.

Economic and Social Research Council